Does your relaxed summer schedule cause your kids to beg for more and more screen time? As much as I dislike it at times, we live in a highly digital world where apps, games and videos are simply a bigger and bigger part of our daily lives.
So how do we limit screen time in healthy ways for our kids?
The screen time problem in our home
Finding the right amount of screen time for your family will be unique for your personal situation and needs. At one time, we allowed screen time every day at 2:00 for one hour. There were a few problems with this however.
The first problem was that my kids (some of whom learned to tell time from this discipline) would literally be bored but wait around for the clock to strike two. Not good.
The second problem was that after their screen time, and I know many parents have experienced this, they were bored and irritable, unable to think of anything to do – except maybe annoy their siblings.
This discovery was promptly followed by a month long media fast during which my kids had z e r o screen time except for a Friday night movie night.
The result? My kids were like different people. After a few days of grumbling and complaining, guess what? They played. They played games, drew pictures, read books, chased the chickens around the backyard and became the creative, fun-loving kids that I remembered. And they stopped asking for screen time.
What the experts say
You don’t have to take my word for it though. Research has consistently shown the negative affects of too much screen time.
- sleep problems and sleep deprivation
- increased risk for attention problems, anxiety and depression
- social and behvioral problems
- risk of unhealthy weight gain
- poor school performance
- negative structural and functional changes in the brain
How much screen time is too much?
I find it curious and a little alarming that Apple founder Steve Jobs didn’t allow his children to use iPads, and that many other well-known technology leaders strictly limit their children’s use of computers and screens.
Current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for healthy amounts of ‘entertainment’ screen time:
- Kids under 2 years of age – no screen time
- Kids 3 years old and up – 2 hours per day
Remember that screen time includes TV, computers, phones, and tablets or any other time you’re sitting in front of a screen.
How we Limit Screen Time in Our Home
With all of these cautions in mind, I am still a realist. Technology isn’t going anywhere. It’s our job as parents to set limits and teach responsibility with screen time. Here’s how we do that in our house.
1. Set the example – I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that I often randomly check my phone during the day for no particular reason. This annoying and time wasting habit prompted me to remove the Facebook app from my phone during the week since that little blue ‘f’ seemed to be the main draw. Our kids are watching us and even if we follow through on every other thing on this list, well, ‘more is caught than taught’ right?
Be a good example with your own screen time. More is ‘caught’ than ‘taught’!
2. Set clear time limits – I speak from experience here when I tell you that kids will push every boundary, real or imaginary, in their pursuit of more screen time. Set clear limits to how often and for how long your kids can access screens. Kids (and parents) do much better with clear limits such as ‘You may watch one show at 3:00.’ or ‘You can play on the iPad or computer for 2 hours on Tuesdays and Fridays.’, which happens to be our current screen time schedule. Also, after trying to reign it in, my kids are no longer allowed to watch anything on YouTube without an older sibling or parent. Period. BTW, if you discovered a way to manage YouTube, please let me know.
3. Limit access – Yes, you are in control! Our family has a list of things that must be completed before any screen time. This list includes: finish all chores, finish all schoolwork, spend time out doors, read a story to a younger sibling, read (to self) for 30 minutes.
I bought this cool charging station on Amazon a few months ago. It lives on a highly visible part of our kitchen counter. The reason I love it is that I can see whose device is ‘checked in’ and whose is ‘checked out’. We’re experimenting with giving our 11 and 12-year olds our old iPhone 4s to use as iPod Touches. I love the versatility of them. The girls can take photos, listen to music and audio books and have a few fun apps as well. Still, if I didn’t limit their access, I’m pretty sure they’d be on them all. day. long.
4. No screens in rooms – While this seems like a no-brainer to me, having a large family, I know how hard it is to find programs that appeal to all ages. Still having a no Internet in your room policy keeps kids (and parents) accountable for what they’re watching and for how long.
5. No screens during dinner – One of the negative side effects of too much screen time is a lack of real life connections. Setting this simple limit, protects the very valuable connections made at the family dinner table.
6. Set parental controls – Find some way to monitor and filter what can come through each screen in the house. We have just discovered Circle, a program/device that monitors, filters, sets time limits (including a bed time!) and can even pause the Internet throughout house. It is completely customizable for each device that connects to WiFi. Currently only works with iOS products.
7. Encourage other activities – My 12-year old printed up this cool summer bucket list, cut the list into strips of paper and loaded them into a glass jar for those inevitable moments of boredom during long, summer days. Invest in games, pool memberships and fun, summer classes to keep your kids bodies and brains active.
8. Have screen time with your kids – There is a tendency in our home for us to break into our own little techno bubbles when it is screen time. The little guys are watching a movie, the tweens are playing Minecraft, the teens are watching a movie on Netflix. Being the introvert that I am, it is tempting to sneak off for some personal time in my own techno bubble. This is okay but try to make time to watch a movie together, or let the kids show you their Minecraft worlds. It will help build relationships and keep you up on what the latest favorite app or program is.
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How about you? How to do you limit screen time in your house?
If you’re looking for more ideas for getting the most out of your summer homeschool, read this: