Kids love being on their phones and devices, and trying to reduce their screen time can sometimes feel like trying to drink from an empty glass or lick your own elbow–an impossible task that will only lead to frustration and disappointment.
Actually, no. Here are six things you can do right now to reduce your kids’ screen time (psst, some of them will also be fun for you!):
1. Be open about the why and the how
You can spend hours explaining why too much screen time is bad–and your kids will still want to be on their phones and devices. It’s still important that somewhere in their head they understand that although reducing their screen time sucks, it comes from a place of love.
Once you’ve explained the why, you can explain the how. What is going to change at home in order to reduce screen time?
2. Set times, not time
Deciding on a set amount of time kids can spend on their devices per day is never going to work–you’ll just find yourself running around the house with a stopwatch, trying to capture how long each kid was on, and when. Plus, you just know you’re going to get into a dispute about what constitutes screen time: like, if you’re playing music videos on YouTube while doing homework, is that technically screen time?
Instead, make certain times they can and cannot use devices. Maybe give the tick to 30 minutes when they get home from school and another 30 minutes after dinner; never before school and not after 7.30 pm.
3. Phone-free zones
Similarly, mark out places around the house that are no-go zones for devices and phones. The dinner table might be one; bedrooms might be another.
4. Out of sight, out of mind
During non-screen time hours, take the devices away for charging. If the kids can’t see them, they will soon forget what they’re missing out on.
5. Non-device fun
The thought of having a good time away from their phone might come as a shock to some kids, so arrange activities that are just as exciting, creative and enjoyable as any app. We’re talking craft projects, DIY makeovers, cake baking and decorating, board games, and puppet shows and plays–once you start thinking about it, the list is endless!
6. Play outside
We’re talking to you, not just the kids. Telling kids to go outside and play isn’t all that inspiring or tempting. So grab a ball and join them. If running around or playing games isn’t your thing, you can garden while they play together.
Bike rides, walks on the beach, or hitting up the local tennis courts will increase your kids’ fitness and mental health and your own—because kids aren’t the only ones that can do with less time on their screens.