It’s a common dilemma you face as a parent. You want to raise your child to be focused, thoughtful and sympathetic. But we live in a digital age in which any number of distractions are merely a click away. Screen time among kids is no longer a question of humoring them. It’s a reality they’re born into. And while some forms of screen time can be educational as well as entertaining, you’re fully aware that too much is never healthy.
And research bears you out. Recent studies have shown that excessive screen time (according to the guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics) can lead not only to inattention and behavioral issues but unhealthy dietary habits; and in the case of 18 month olds, speech and language delay. It’s no longer simply sage advice passed down from your own parents.
At the same time, our lives are so hectic that it’s tempting to sit them down in front of an iPhone or the TV so you can take that important call. But as parents, our children rely on us to model behavior for them. And when that behavior is unhealthy, it should be no surprise that their developmental growth is affected as well.
So how do you limit screen time in a world dominated by screens? How can you change screen time habits among your kids if they’re already ingrained?
The answer begins by examining your own habits.
Become Unplugged Daily
That goes for you, as well. And your spouse. Even the dog (don’t laugh—we’ve seen it!) Set aside an hour or two each day (before supper is ideal) to limit screen time for the entire house, not just kids. Help your child discover books. Art. Games. Physical activity. Puzzles. Anything and everything you can think of. Not only will it change your child, it will wind up changing you. Quality time is a lost art. Rediscover it.
Develop Creativity—Not Complacency
Screen time encourages a sense of disengagement, one where children especially can only feel stimulated by passivity and absorption. But imagination is an innate trait we all share. Children are naturally attuned to it. And screen time limits it. Encourage your child’s creativity through pretend play, story telling, music… anything that allows them to express their natural gift of imagination. Don’t just let them draw or paint in the other room. Engage with them. It’s your self expression as much as theirs.
Imagine A World Free Of Screen Time…
And create it in your home. It could be in the dining room. Or the hallway. Or, unbelievably, the living room. But a single room in which screen time is forbidden—for kids and adults. Don’t make the mistake of turning it into a time out zone where they associate it with punishment. Turn it into an area of creativity, engagement and conversation. Keep it full of both of your favorite books, activities and snacks. Transform it into a place they actually look forward to going; one full of excitement, joy, wonder and expression.
Take Responsibility For Limiting Your Own Screen Time Habits
Remember what we said earlier about modeling behavior for children? If they see you passively scrolling through your iPhone or vacantly staring at the TV screen half asleep, they’re going to get the impression it’s perfectly natural behavior. And it isn’t. In fact, passive usage of media has been linked to increased loneliness, social anxiety and a lack of commitment. We’re not telling you to disconnect from screen time altogether, but simply to be mindful of how you use it as a role model.
But Keep Up With Their Screen Time Habits
If your kid insists on screen time, don’t just limit it to the background. Actively engage alongside them. We know it’s hard to get excited about video games (at least for some of us.) But you may not be aware of just how harmful some of them can be. And if you’re the parent of a tween, you need to be fully aware of just how disengaging social media usage can be. If your children can afford to be tech savvy, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t be.
Make Your Child’s Room Screen Time Free
Depending on their age, this might be one of the hardest tasks on the list to do. They’ll pout. They’ll cry. They’ll scream “Why not?” But stick to your guns. Permit them only in your sight. Ensure that you know all their passwords. While electronics can be beneficial for a child’s education, the temptation for them to distract can be equally detrimental. This is especially true of handheld devices, which kids will frequently try to sneak into their rooms at night.
Make Getaways A Priority
Show your kid there’s more to life than what’s on a screen. No matter how old they are, they’ll still have a favorite restaurant. Or a park (yes, that means your 13 year old, as well.) Or, dare we say, discover an unexplored area out of town? Encourage them to step outside their boundaries. Broaden their horizons. Be active with your kids—physically, mentally and creatively.
And maybe you’ll rediscover what it’s like to be active as an adult, as well.
At My Quest Montessori, we know a child’s development isn’t just about their education. It’s about their total engagement—mentally, creatively, socially and physically. To schedule a tour or to find more information, visit us at myquestmontessori.com/ or call (832) 481-4135