Tips for Reducing your Childs Screen Time

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Limiting your child’s screen time is a massive issue in many households today – as companies are releasing more and more games and apps that target young children and draw them in. They are everywhere, and they are unavoidable.
However, Cynthia Gill, licensed marriage and family therapist, outlines four things that children need most – and none of them can be obtained through screen time: to connect; to feel capable; to feel like they’re contributing; and the ability to handle life’s ups and downs. Too much time using technology can leave children with a multitude of social problems, such as a lack of eye contact or even social anxiety in extreme cases. It also takes away from valuable family time – which is important to children when they are growing up.
I know I am not telling you anything new – I don’t think I’ve met a parent who likes the amount of time their child spends using technology. But it is unavoidable in this day and age. And I know rules have been set and boundaries have been made, but here can cause huge rifts in the family and can end up in, what Cynthia calls, ‘tech battles’.
Typical rules, such as taking away technology as a punishment, are good as temporary rules, but they don’t build up on trust or help to nourish your relationship wi your child. However, these guidelines Cynthia outlines may be of more help.
1 – Have a family meeting.
Involving the whole family in your decisions will show the importance of solving problems together, as a collective. Each child will feel like their opinions have been heard, that they have been considered, and that they are important. Remember to keep the meeting short – 30-40 minutes is suggested for teenagers – and set ground rules such as ‘no interruptions when someone is talking’.
2 – Earning Screen Time.
If you can set up a system in your home that allows your children to ‘earn’ screen time this will not only promote creative or charitable activities, but will also introduce the concept of earning the things we want instead of just being allowed to have them. It could be reading, helping a friend of the family, doing certain chores, getting involved in extra curricular activities or something moe creative. This sends a very clear message to the child, and gives them a chance to enjoy their screen time a lot more as they have earned it themselves.
3 – Make Cutting Back an Issue For Everyone.
If you are trying to get your child to cut back on their screen time – take a look at your own. Do you spend too much time on your phone? Or spend evenings glued to your computer screen? It’s important that you are sending the right message to your child, so when rules are set about limiting screen time you need to consider your own.
A couple of suggestions for this are: to put up a screen it tracking chart with the whole families names on it; an electronic device drop box for the whole family; or even just taking one day off a week together. It is important that everyone in the house abides by the same rules – and it’s important to set a good example for your child.
4 – Don’t be too Extreme.
Extreme limits are very difficult to enforce – especially if they are out of the blue. You can’t just come home from work one day and decide that no one is allowed to use technology for two weeks. Discuss the issue, decide the best solution and enforce appropriate and practical rules.
5 – Replace Screen Time with other Enjoyable Activities.
Using a fun and interesting alternative to screen time will help to focus on the positives. It may even help your child to learn a new skill or become more interested in new hobbies. So focus on the ‘you can do’ activities, rather than the ‘you can’t do’ ones.
6 – Let Your Child Decide.
If time limit is your chosen rule, such as two hours screen time a day, then be sure to let your child choose how they want to spend that time. It could be to watch their favourite tv show, or go to a certain website, or play a game. But this way the child will learn to pre-plan as well as to feel respected by you.
[The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends against screen time for children under two years of age — urging more interactive play instead — and recommends a maximum of one to two hours of quality programming per day for older children.]
7 – Always be Interested!
Try to show your curiosity and interest in what your child is doing. If they’re watching TV then ask them about it. What’s the show about? Do your friends like it? And more importantly, what do YOU think about it?
This is especially the case for teenagers, who love to feel like the expert even if its just for a short period of time.

Now I don’t have any children myself, so I couldn’t tell you how effective these tips are. But coming from the recent generation of technology teenagers I can tell you that limiting screen time is never going to be a bad thing. If anything it could have a big impact on social issues that more and more teenagers seem to be facing – turning to making friends online instead of at school. Even at the age of 20 I would rather text people than talk to them in person, and it’s much harder to tackle at this age than it would have been 5 years ago.
So, parents, let me know what you think. Are these tips helpful?

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Written by: Philippa Berry
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