Screen time challenge

Screen time boundaries

With the pandemic becoming our new normal for probably another year, and limited entertainment options, screen time usage has increased and probably will continue to increase. It doesn’t negate the negative affects that screen time can have on children’s development, ability to self regulate their emotions, communication skills, sleep routine, and eye health. Of course, it is important to give ourselves grace and everyone’s health needs are different. For families who are ready to take back control of phone, video game, and TV usage, let’s try this challenge.

  • Spend 5 minutes of uninterrupted screen free time with your family. No touching any digital devices during this time. No refreshing email or social media notifications, no checking sports scores, no checking the weather, no responding to texts. Gradually increase this time by 5 minutes every week until you reach your goal of 30-60 minutes. For my family , this might realistically be 30 minutes on the weekdays and 60 minutes on the weekends.
  • Turn the devices and screens off or put them out of reach during meal times. Currently, this is a bigger struggle for the adults than the younger kids. This is why it’s a challenge. But a good one.

Adjust your rules accordingly

Keep in mind that it’s okay to change the rules as your family’s needs change. Just make sure to keep it consistent and communicate it with the rest of the family. For older kids, get their input and try to use some of their suggestions. Pick you battles wisely.

For our family, we let the kids watch Disney Plus shows or movies on the weekdays during the summer, but made it a rule to keep the weekends screen free to force ourselves to spend more time together. We tried to use that time to ride our bikes and scooters (WITH HELMETS!) outside, go to state parks, and play board games. This also kept mommy honest and limited her phone usage since she had to entertain the kids. 🙂

Now that school has started, especially with the current virtual situation sitting in front of the computer for most of the day, we changed our rules. We don’t let the kids watch shows or play online games on the week days so that their eyes get a break. On weekends, we let them watch a show or two or a movie, but only after they certain things are done, such as playing piano (which mommy teaches, so again, keep scatter brained, distractible mommy honest), and folding their laundry, sometimes the baby’s laundry, too.

Ground rules for screen time

Every family is different. I want to stress this. Some families are efficient. Their kids play video games, but they also get plenty of exercise outside and eat healthy. Their basic needs are met. Some preteens are on Tik Tok a lot, but they are sleeping well at night, eating fruits and veggies, exercising, and making Tik Tok videos. I stress to my patients that it’s important to not just consume wisely (don’t get sucked into ads or into endless youtube autoplays), but also to create.

Is there a common thread here? It’s important for everyone to have their basic needs met when considering screen time. If a kid is playing a lot of video games but not getting much physical activity, then try a rule to exercise for 20 minutes – anything, dancing, jump and jacks, youtube work out video, going up and down the stairs – and then settling down for some screen time fun. If a kid is on social media all night and not sleeping, then try putting the phone in the parent’s room or an app to automatically shut it down after a certain hour.

Check out these guides using fun mnemonics to help your kids understand what they need to do and why it’s important to have their basic needs met before they gain the privilege to access that data plan.

See more pdf guides here.

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