Kids today are tech-savvy. I’ve seen 3 year olds asking Siri to show them a picture of their favourite Disney princesses. They play games, they look at pictures. The new YouTube app even takes voice commands, so they can easily watch the latest Peppa Pig episodes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, as long as it’s a healthy mix of screen time, exercise time, homework and family life.
Getting the kids to turn the screen off is incredibly hard. There’s whinging and whining, there’s the “it’s not fair” complaint. How do you do it? Here are a few tips that may help:
Parental controls, or “Restrictions” if you have an Apple device, let you control what they see and how they see it. However, they don’t allow you to restrict how long the device is being used natively.
Apps exist for both Google and Apple that help you set yourself with automated alarms, restrictions, and time controls. They can even block out certain applications (unless you know the password). Before I discovered these, I used to refrain from fully charging the device so that when the battery ran out I could say ‘Oh No! Time’s up! Put it on the charger and do something different!’ However, I highly recommend taking the app route, so that the time limit is predictable.
My parents used to reward me with Nintendo time. If I ate my Brussels sprouts, that earned me 15 minutes. Cutting the grass equaled half an hour. I learned to appreciate my time with my games, treasure it even.
When screen time is a reward, some kids will go out of their way to help out at home. Not only does this encourage sharing the housework, it also means us parents get much deserved quiet time.
Have a list of activities that your kids love to do at the ready for those times of boredom. If you don’t have this, they’ll default to asking for a screen. There’s an addiction built into the glowing warmth of the screen light. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to just hand over the tablet.
See our previous blog “How to Make Your Kid a Maker” for a whole bunch ideas on types of aces to put up your sleeve.
Bedrooms should be a sanctuary from screens. No TVs, no tablets and no computers allowed. That goes for you too parents, set an example for your kids!
This helps establish boundaries. When it’s time for sleep, the kids will know that there are no iPads allowed. It creates an environment for talking about things that might be pressing on them, because if there were screens here, they might be too distracted to tell you about what’s going on in their lives.
It also helps you keep an eye on what they’re using the screen for. If the kids are in the living room watching Netflix, you’ll be able to hear when they switch to ‘The Walking Dead’ or some other not age-appropriate television series.
In my experience, all of these tips boil down to one thing – the more time you spend interacting with your kids, the less time they will spend on their tablets. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do given how busy we all are, but eventually, good habits will start to form and you’ll no longer need to keep a finger on the off switch.