By: Robert D. Keder, MD, Connecticut Children’s
Have you wondered if your child is spending too much time in front of screens?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend the following:
- No screen time at all for kids under 2 except for video chatting
- One hour of screen time a day for kids 2-12
- Two hours a day for teens and adults
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep and physical activity
- Set goals with your child because not all screen time is the same
- Plan some intentional screen-free time
Connecticut Children’s developmental pediatric experts share 7 ways you can help your child reduce their screen time…
- Tell them why—because you know they’ll ask.
Before officially setting rules around screen time, take the time to explain why you’re doing so—in a way that’s age appropriate. Explain that every family has their own rules, so what you’re doing might be different than at a friend’s house. This dialogue may help reduce any power struggles or emotional outbursts later because it’s easier to follow a rule if you understand the reason for it in the first place.
- Be patient. Look at it from their perspective.
Screens are intentionally designed to be addictive at all ages. There is always one more video to watch, one more level to play, or more news feeds to scroll through. This can be especially difficult for some children.
If they tantrum or get upset when you transition away from screen time to another activity, be patient and give them transition reminders like 5, 3, and 1-minute warnings. If them losing their cool makes you lose your cool, remember that another person designed something intentionally to keep your child’s attention; it’s not your child’s fault—especially the younger kids. Help them learn how to deal with stepping away and setting limits.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend no more than two hours of screen time a day for adults and teens.
- Keep the screen(s) out in the open.
When allowing screen time, keep the screens in a common area of the home like the living room. This way, you can keep an eye on what your child is watching and set some limits while in the moment.
- Set goals that are actually achievable.
Be kind to yourself—and to your child. If screen time has taken over life for a bit, take baby steps to reduce it. Be realistic, though—maybe a 12-hour international plane ride isn’t the best time to enforce rules around screen time.
- Dedicate time to being screen- and phone-free each day.
This is where you’ll want to be firm. Be clear with your family that there are certain times and places in the home where technology is off limits. Dinner is a good time to sit together and chat about the day, or maybe dedicate Saturday evenings to a family activity like board games or charades.
- Check in with your own screen time use, too.
Again, be kind to yourself. Many of us are in front of screens for a living, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reduce our recreational use of screens. When you’re spending time with your child, make an effort to put the phone, tablet or laptop down. Model the behavior you want to see.
There are lots of screen-free alternatives! Try making family game night part of your routine.
- Explore screen-free alternatives—and get creative!
Kids are adaptable—and usually love being introduced to new, hands-on activities appropriate for their age. Here are some screen-free ideas:
- Screen-free audio box: There are engaging, educational audio boxes which have grown in popularity. One famous brand has characters you can place on the top of the box that tell stories. Another brand is a mini, compact version, with options for music, books, and arranging your own music collections.
- STEM toys: “STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math. The concept of a STEM toy is for your child to build something age- and developmentally-appropriate. Try this flower garden or this magnetic tile set.
- Homework: That’s right—preschoolers get homework nowadays. Ask your child’s teacher for at-home lesson plan ideas so you can keep them busy during times they’d otherwise be in front of a device or scrolling through the internet.