9 Ways to Reduce Screen Time at Home
Updated: Feb 6
There are so many different electronics that are available that I have truly lost count. No more are the days of our one landline and family room television; now 4 cell phones roam the house, 2 TVs, 1 Alexa, 1 XBOX, iPads, and laptop galore stuffing our homes. We know that it is bad for us but we just can’t seem to stop, or can we? Here are a few tips on how to start reducing screen time in your home and with your kids.
Lead By Example
‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is an old saying that will solve nothing for the screen time overload in the home. If we are always on our phones calling, emailing, and texting how can we expect our kids to think that there is anything wrong with always being on our screens? If you want the family as a whole to cut back on the screens than you must do the same, set a good example of a healthy relationship with technology for your kids to model after.
Educate the Family
‘Tech-savvy’ doesn't even begin to cover how smart kids are with technology nowadays. It’s especially difficult to keep up with all the different social media platforms and video games that are at the touch of our kids' fingers. But it is crucial to understand what kids are spending their time on, what dangers may be associated with an app or game, how it affects their mental health and attitude, and especially how they are interacting with others.
Make an effort to know what social platforms your kids are using and talk to them about it. Try to have open, constructive conversations about the possible dangers of an app or a video game. It will be easier to restrict and limit technology when there is clear and valid reasoning behind it, like a violent video game negatively affecting your child's behavior.
Setting a technology guideline in the home will make a huge impact on the amount of screen time. There isn't one guideline that fits all families, for it to work it must be altered to your family's lifestyle and kid’s ages. An example of this is enforcing no video games during the school week, and a maximum of 2 hours per day for TV and phone usage. Set an ideal technology usage time and base the restrictions off of that, guidelines will simply help the family be a more screen-free home.
Establish Tech-Free Zones
In addition to tech, limits have technology-free zones in the house. Establish clear areas of the home where no screens will be allowed, this may include no electronics at the dinner table or in bedrooms.
Be the Bad Cop
It can be hard to be the bad cop, especially when it’s something that your kids think they ‘need’. Depending on your family dynamic this may be more difficult or not necessary. But we are trying to install a lifestyle that will last a long time, so be the bad cop, put your foot down when a tech-limits have been exceeded or when someone is not following the tech-free zones. Repetition and constantly enforcing the seriousness of this matter is the only way it will stick and show the family that this is serious.
Provide Tech Alternatives
Electronics are great babysitters, it keeps kids quiet and entertained for long periods. This is why it can be so hard to reduce the use of screens. A great way to pull yourself and the kids away from screens is to do activities that don't require a screen. Taking the kids for a walk, visiting a park or pool, playing in the backyard, sports, musical lessons, after school activities are healthy alternatives to the ‘screen-sitters’. Anytime you see the boredom creeping in and a screen being turned on try to offer an activity alternative.
Friend Play Dates
A huge reason we and our kids are so obsessed with technology is that we can talk and interact with our friends. Either we all don't see our friends enough or when we do it is because of school/work which isn't an ideal time to sit and chat for hours. Setting up a time for your kids to talk and play with their friends outside of school or sports, providing an alternative to seeing their friends and getting off their screen will only help both parties.
A Privilege NOT a Need
Because kids are growing up with technology surrounding them at the touch of their fingers it is easy for them to think that they need electronics. It is important to teach that technology is a privilege, and they don’t by any means need to be on their 5 social media platforms and video game room chats all the time. Screens are consistently telling our kids they need more, but we need to teach them more about gratitude and less about greed. Taking away electronic privileges for bad behaviors and instilling time limits help reinforce that screen time is a privilege, as well as something that shouldn’t be overused.
Talk with Your Family
Life gets very busy for everyone. Even for your teenager that is balancing school, friends, sports, family, and every hormonal fluctuation that courses through their body. It’s easy for them to pull away and hide in technology when things are stressful. Talking to your kids regularly about their lives, issues, mental health, and struggles is imperative. Open communication will hopefully inspire them to open up to you, rather than a social media platform.
It's a new technology-filled age and we should adapt to the times, but that doesn’t mean we should completely surrender our family values to electronics. Even limiting an hour a day to spend just as a family playing a board game or going on a walk will help combat our addictions to technology. ‘Something is better than nothing’ as my mom always tells me.