We see it more and more all around us — kids with smartphones in their hands, parents who let the TV do the babysitting for them, and children addicted to the Internet.
Too much screen time for your child can result in some serious damage, and if your child spends most of their hours in front of a screen; it’s time to adopt some screen reduction techniques into your daily schedule.
Kids Ride Wild states that spending many hours staring at screens is damaging to us all, but in particular young children; resulting in symptoms such as insomnia, obesity, behavioral and educational problems. These are very real and very scary reasons why you need to be reducing your child’s screen time right now.
With a bit of organization and with the help of the technology itself, you can easily reduce your child’s time in front of screens immediately. The following tips will get you ahead for a tech-free time, leaving your child with more time each day to grow and learn.
Setting up a schedule of tech-free time into your child’s day will get them into the habit of knowing they have a specific amount of time to spend doing something else. Good tech-free rules could be "no technology during dinner time" or "technology off an hour before bed." The important thing about these rules is to be consistent and stick to them.
You might wish to write a schedule on the fridge so your children know what they have coming up. This could include afternoon tea, study time, playtime, dinner time, tech-free time, bath and bed. If you go over time with one activity, try not to stress too much. Children respond to flexibility; so as long as you set a "tech-free hour" and stick to the full hour, the exact time won’t matter too much.
Parental controls are a godsend for sticking to your tech-free time rules, and these tools have really advanced over the years. You can set timers on your WiFi or TV to be off at certain times, or prohibit your children from seeing certain websites altogether. Parental controls ensure your kids aren’t looking at something they shouldn't or wouldn’t understand yet. If you’re having trouble getting these controls configured, give your TV or internet provider a call. They will be more than happy to help you set up a safe home environment for your children.
Too much screen time can lead to a lack of focus and even things like the internet or television addiction. When this happens, children can become distressed or angry when away from the TV or a WiFi connection, and these addictions can be every bit as damaging as drugs or alcohol. Technology addictions can lead to social isolation and damaging behaviors, so teaching your children about these dangers is very important.
If you’re open with your children, they will be open with you. Let them know why you have set up parental controls and why you only allow technology at certain hours. These reasons could be because you want them to develop skills in other areas or to socialize more, and you’re afraid too much screen time would be in detriment to them.
Tech-free time is also the perfect time to slot in some family activities, and you could use this time to play board games, take a walk, learn a musical instrument or even have a family talent show! This is a great way for your family to bond and communicate openly, rather than having their noses in an iPhone. Perhaps your family is into sports and a backyard game of football could be on the cards. Another would be role-playing with them. You can even make it more fun if you have costumes and props as well. You can easily look it up on the web since online shops like Toynk, Kohls, and Amazon sell them at an affordable price. Use this opportunity to find things you like to do together as a family as well — it will certainly keep it interesting!
What a tangled web we children weave when we think our parents are naive, is the old adage; and we’re sure every single parent knows what happens when you allow technology into your children’s room. Late-night TV binges, scrolling through social media all night or playing video games with a blanket over their heads are all familiar sights and not healthy habits your child should be adopting.
Keep the technology in the family room so you can monitor not only what your children are looking at, but also how much time they’re spending doing it. You may wish to lock away smartphones in a drawer overnight, or disable the WiFi and change the password every day. Whatever you decide; not letting technology into your kids’ bedrooms ensures they’re also sticking to the rules.
Whilst not every child will experience the negative effect of spending too much time in front of screens, there’s a big chance they could, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If all else fails, tell your children what we were told when we were their age: “Your eyes will go square!”
Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo! News and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.