One of the most pressing concerns that modern-day parents face today is to find practical tips to limit screen time for kids. And rightfully so! With T.V., mobile phones and tablets being so readily available, screen time has become an addiction.
More so with most of the world being in lockdown due to the current pandemic.
(If you are looking for ways to keep your teenagers busy during these times, a while ago, I had curated a list of fun activities to keep them engaged at home. You can read it HERE.)
“Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye. “
This Hindustan Times report states that children in India spend an alarming average of 6 hours a day with electronic media! Thankfully, a lot of teens are now beginning to think things have gotten way out of hand and are exploring what is termed as “social media detox.“
But before switching over to disaster management and fervently searching the internet for tips to limit screen time for kids, I have a question for YOU.
Are your screen time habits to blame for the amount of time your kids spend watching the screen?
Interestingly, most parents don’t see their own screen time as a possible underlying reason. Technology has now become such an integral part of our lives that it is nearly impossible to imagine a world without it.
So, before going head-first into implementing a few strict rules to curb your child’s screen time habits, consider this- is it really possible to keep your child away from technology completely?
The simple answer is, NO.
But the most pragmatic thing to do is to LIMIT your child’s screen time and find the underlying reasons behind their cell phone/ tablet addiction.
3 REASONS YOUR KID IS ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY
PARENTS SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ONLINE
It is what is termed as “secondhand screen time” that marks the beginning of a possible addiction among kids. When kids watch their parents- mostly moms, according to one study- spend a lot of time staring at their screens, they want to peep in too. Naturally, their fast-developing brains are curious to access this virtual world of spectacular colors and motion.
Now, don’t get me wrong when I say that maternal screen time habits influence the kids’ own habits more. I’m not targeting women- it is simple logic! Kids spend more time with their mothers (including the time spent being in the womb). So they tend to naturally pick habits from mothers first.
Most adults today agree to be cell phone addicts.
Humans have this innate desire to be recognized and to be part of a bigger group. It makes us feel accepted. The digital world provides just that from the comforts of our homes.
Most teenagers receive acceptance in the form of likes and messages on the various social media platforms and forums they are part of. It is this sense of belonging that leads to them wanting to check on their phones repeatedly.
You can ensure that social recognition isn’t the driving force behind your child’s social media addiction by checking your own behavior towards them. Are you spending too little time with them? Are you spending too much time discussing your social media activity while your child is an earshot away?
Talk about wanting to eat pizza and all your social media platforms begin to display ads from Pizza Hut and Domino’s. Sounds familiar?
We live in a world where online spying has become acceptable. Most people would even find it convenient. After all, you won’t have to google too many pizza stores when suggestions are readily available. This is termed as targeted advertising and is directed towards an audience with certain interaction traits. These ads are curated based on the kind of data a person is interacting with online.
Most of us, including kids, find it nearly impossible to keep away from this vicious trap.
THE EFFECTS OF USING TOO MUCH TECHNOLOGY
- Are at a much higher risk of childhood obesity.
- Are more likely to display aggressive behavior.
- Aggression might cultivate more serious health and mental troubles when they get older.
- They feel lethargic.
- Lack of concentration.
- Are more-exposed to commercials, advertisements, and propaganda.
This is in no way an exhaustive list. However, without delving further into the harmful effects of spending an unhealthy number of hours using phones and watching T.V., let’s look at the possible ways to curb the habit.
8 PRACTICAL TIPS TO LIMIT SCREEN TIME FOR KIDS
INTRODUCE TECH BREAKS
This one’s a tough nut for both you and your child if you have a habit of using your phone/ laptop around your kids. Walk the talk and consciously implement screen-free hours while at home or during weekends.
Alternatively, dedicate certain hours for screen time when kids (and adults alike) can use only one of their favorite gadgets.
By implementing gadget-free family time, you’re sending out a strong message that it is possible to spend quality time and feel contented without gadgets too.
IMPLEMENT DIGITAL FREE ZONES
Easy access to gadgets leads to kids into believing that it is acceptable to spend as much screen time as they choose. By allowing children to use technology whenever and wherever they please, you are sending across a wrong message.
This uninterrupted distraction, in turn, results in a lack of respect as well as attention. Imagine your 3-year-old not paying any heed to your calls because that will take away attention from their favorite cartoon on YouTube.
Limit the usage of gadgets only to the living room while restricting any technology from entering the kids’ bedroom, your own bedroom until the kids have gone to bed, and the kitchen.
DON’T USE YOUR CELL PHONE AND T.V. AS BABYSITTERS
When my son was born, I joined a number of mother and baby-related support groups on Facebook that answered questions right from pregnancy to introducing solids when the baby came of age. One of the most pressing concerns in the baby-led weaning and introducing solids group I’m a member of is “distraction feeding.“
What is distraction feeding? When you turn on Peppa Pig on T.V. so that lunchtime goes smoothly without your picky eater throwing a fit about the steamed broccoli. Or when you hand over your phone because you are exhausted from the long day at work. As a modern-day parent, technology is the easiest and most convenient rescue aid for you if you want to make them eat that yucky broccoli.
Distraction feeding does way more harm than good and is directly related to obesity in kids.
Let me tell you how. Younger kids who distraction feed almost never develop the habit of understanding hunger cues and being full. Their hand to mouth coordination, which is a vital motor skill, is delayed.
While for older kids, distraction comes in the form of targeted advertising. Google understands user interaction patterns. So, chances are that your kid “discovered” that bakery after its ad displayed on their screen.
ACTIVATE PARENTAL CONTROL AND PASSWORDS
Most gadgets these days come with parental control features or child mode. This helps parents exercise more control over the type of apps and online content their kids interact with. These controls also make it difficult for a child to access everything they want.
Setting passwords that your child doesn’t know also helps establish authority. It sends out a clear message that they can’t use your phone/ laptop without your knowledge. Use additional app-specific locks if you don’t want them to snoop around on your phone.
Another practical tip is to keep your gadgets far from the reach of your kids. Remember, out of sight is out of mind.
ENCOURAGE OTHER HEALTHY HABITS
While the transition from being a phone addict might be extremely nerve-wracking for you and your child, it is important that you hang in there anyhow. And most kids use their phones because of a lack of mental stimulation.
Encourage your kids to explore their talents. While the epiphany won’t occur overnight, it is still a vital process in their holistic development. One that is most often ignored due to the heavy influence of technology.
ENCOURAGE OUTDOOR PLAY
Organize play-dates for younger kids. Kids of all ages love to hang-out and play. Find out if there are local groups in your locality that hang-out often. Not just for the sheer fun of it, outdoor games are important for your child to develop into a well-rounded individual.
Sports provide an opportunity to develop vital characteristics in kids like team-play and social interaction skills. More importantly, outdoor games also work as an immunity booster. Plus, you’ll be surprised at how fast your kid gobbles that steamed broccoli after a tiring cricket match!
Introducing books at an early age has scientifically proven to be beneficial for brain development. By the time the baby reaches one year of age, they will have learned all the signs used to speak their native language. The more you read, the faster they will learn words.
Fifteen days after my son was born, I had posted a question about the best baby books available for one-month-olds on a forum. Unsurprisingly, I was that day’s laughing stock. Nonetheless, some members also gave some great book suggestions.
By his first birthday, my son was able to speak phrases that consisted of 2-3 words. And now, at two-years, his creative imagination is at its peak! There is no minimum age to start reading to your child. In fact, the sooner you begin the better it is.
EDUCATE ABOUT THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY
Your child isn’t yet aware of the big bad world out there but you are. If they are old enough explain to your kids how harmful social media can be.
PLAY WITH THEM
Set everything aside and participate in playing with your kids. Lead by example. It might seem like a job now when they are young, but you will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of inclusivity you get in your child’s life when they are older.
Limiting your child’s screen time may seem like an impossible battle to win. But it is one worth fighting if your child is addicted to it.
Implementing these 8 practical tips to limit screen time right away will help you.
Remember, however, that technology is here to stay. We are not going back in time and that screen time is now intertwined with our everyday lives. Thus, it is better to figure out ways to integrate technology into your child’s life than simply trying to limit screen time.
Do you have some other practical tips to limit your child’s screen time?