TV. Laptops. Tablets. Smartphones. The technology is right in front of your kids and it’s hard to avoid. A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids ages 8 to 18 now spend an average of 7 hours and 38 min per day using entertainment media. Yet, more and more studies are linking screen time to behavioral problems, obesity, and anxiety and depression.
In light of these worrying statistics, it’s important to encourage your kids to unplug. Here are some practical tips for getting your kids away from their electronics.
Limits are necessary for a child’s development. Similar to how we limit sweets and set curfews, we also need to restrict screen time. The World Health Organization recommends that children ages two to five spend no more than an hour per day in front of a screen. Children under the age of two shouldn’t engage in sedentary screen time at all.
By enforcing a screen time allowance, your kids will have some freedom in how they want to spend that time, but their consumption overall will be limited. If you’re concerned about kids sneaking time in, you can also set device time limits through parental controls.
Turn off the WiFi
In addition to setting limits, you also have the option of turning off your WiFi completely after a certain time of night. Switching the WiFi off at 7pm, for example, prevents kids from using their devices before and during bedtime hours when screen lights are particularly harmful to health.
Encourage Playdates and Activities
An effective and healthy way to limit screen time is to simply distract your kids with fun opportunities. Encourage your kids to invite a friend over. Sign them up for sports and activities. Play a board game. Take a walk. Not only will your kids soon forget about their devices, but they’ll also be enjoying the benefits of socialization and physical activity.
Establish Device-free Zones
Dining rooms and bedrooms are a good place to rule out electronics. Research shows that adults who eat while watching TV are likely to eat more food. It goes without saying that kids who eat in front of the TV will likely do the same.
Besides preventing your kids from developing bad habits, eating without distractions promotes conversation and family bonding.
In addition, banning electronics in the bedroom is also important. Quality sleep is vital to a child’s development and screen time at night disrupts sleep/wake cycles.
By banning electronics in these areas, you’ll be able to prevent the associated negative health consequences all while promoting positive habits.
Set an Example
Last, but not least, it’s important that you set a good example. After all, you’re the parent and kids learn from behavior. If you’re plugged in a lot, they’ll think it’s okay to do the same.
And don’t forget that putting down your phone will benefit you as much as it benefits them!