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Are your kids spending too much down time on screen time?

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

Being present is the new challenge for our generation, because all the time my kids are on their device then I am often on mine too, fighting against the same lethargy as they are.

So what can we do?

Identify how long is spent on the following interactions:

  • Passive - watching tv/videos, scrolling through social media posts

  • Active - playing games, researching, learning something new

  • Social - playing an interactive game, talking to friends

Plan family activities, traditions and none negotiable chores

  • Board games

  • Helping make dinner

  • The weekly shop!

  • Friday night pizza and film

  • Dog walking

Agree guidelines that will work for you and your

  • No phones at the dinner table

  • Active use only after 7pm

  • Parental access to social media apps – especially important for younger children

Create micro break challenges for your children. Lead by example, if you want them to have a break from the screen then then you need to have a break too

  • Go and fetch a glass of water

  • Jump on the trampoline 20 times

  • Find another family member and see how they are doing

  • Lie on the floor and close your eyes and listen to what is happening around you

  • Walk 250 steps

Help your children make sensible decisions

  • Find out how long a game usually lasts - don’t let them start a game if they are not going to be able to finish it.

  • Praise them when things are going well

  • Encourage them to self-regulate - remind them to look at the clock, have a micro break

  • Follow through with agreed sanctions - make these small and repetitive

Look out for the annual Phone free day in March for more ideas and support.

I know that it can be really hard to come up with ‘fun’ things to do, things which you feel are slightly more productive than spending your life on social media or glued to a screen. I admit that at times I am at a loss. When my girls were younger I made a ‘what I can do if I’m bored’ list and placed it on the fridge. Now that they are older and have their own hand held devices they rarely admit that they are bored, I don’t think that they actually realise that the lack of motivation, energy or enthusiasm to interact, is a sign that their mind is bored. They may look up between posts, videos or games, but unless we are there suggesting an activity at that precise point they find themselves clicking the next link, or starting a new game, because it is easier than finding something else to do.

When the girls were younger we found that the ten minutes before bed were often the most memorable as that was the time we were actually talking to each other, even if it was just us parents trying to get them to bed, and our children trying to delay the process as long as possible. I was not happy that we were spending so much of our down time on screen time so we discussed all the things we could do together, instead of plugging into the net, and created the seven o’clock rule. The rule was that devices were to be switched off by this time, and other things done. The first evening went well, the rule had been discussed and agreed and so there was no fuss when we asked for the television to be turned off. One daughter decided to make a cake and the other joined me to do some cross stitch. For a while we were doing more together, then after school activities kicked in and homework needed doing, which required the internet, and things slid a bit, with everyone again doing their own thing. You have not failed if old habits slip back in, change can be hard, especially if you are battling again such seductive entertainment. The benefit of our 7 o’clock rule was that it had been agreed on, and so when I noticed it needed enforcing again the grumbles and complaints did not last that long.

The main learning here is to agree the rules with your family; you need their support, however grudgingly given.

As a family we have tried a number of different rules and guidelines. I used to monitor my girls social media, now I don’t, they got older and I got more trusting. I no longer have to enforce the no phones at the dinner table rule, like saying please and thank you, it is now an ingrained expectation.

Screen time is like anything else, we can only try and teach sensible and healthy interactive choices. In the future you will not be there to monitor their use, show them the benefits of interacting with others now, and hopefully they will make the sensible choices in the future.

If your family needs support to carry out screen time CPR (cut power and reconnect) then get in touch.

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