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How Much Screen Time for a Child?

Screen time is a part of life and somewhat a necessity in this technology-driven world. However, too much of it can be bad for your children.

Managing the number of hours your kids can use their smartphones or tablets can be tricky, but it’s definitely doable. Here’s how you can determine how much screen time should your kids have and tips on how to reduce it.

Lay Out an Action Plan…

One sign that you need to intervene is when your child prefers to spend time on his or her device instead of reading or playing with toys, for example.

The first course of action is to figure out why you want to reduce screen time. Maybe they’ve been spending so much time that it’s affecting their sleep or eating habits, or maybe you want them to do something else than stare at their screens all day.

Parents should also understand that some screen time is important, and more so if they’re watching educational shows. While it’s not recommended for toddlers, those aged 2 to 5 should only have an hour maximum, while for older pre-teens and teens aged 10 to 18 only a few hours is recommended.

Pick a Date to Start Your Plan…

There are instances when suddenly changing screen time hours can have a detrimental effect on your children.

They could experience withdrawal symptoms and don’t know what to do with it. You could be dealing with a temperamental child because his or her screen time is abruptly changed and with little to no explanation.

Let your child know in advance that you plan to cut screen time to only an hour or two per day, and choose a date a few days ahead of time. This gives them time to adjust to the new lifestyle, and for you to fill in the details with activities and whatnot.

It’s important that you stick with the new plan moving forward and do your best to maintain that routine. Fortunately, there are several ways you can fill in the hours.

Set Up Some Activities…

Now that you’ve freed up a few hours in their day-to-day matters it’s time to insert alternative activities.

Naturally speaking, you’ll want your child to spend that time working on other, non-screen related things. You can come up with a list of possible activities that are geared towards their interests, or put in some quality family time.

Offline activities will depend on your kid’s age and his or her preference. However, exercise, play and face to face interactions should be included.

Some examples include playing with Lego, colouring, outdoor play with bubbles or sand, and playing sports such as soccer or spending time with the family dog. Aim to do something different every day so there’s variety and they won’t get bored or long for their devices.

Keep the Devices in a Drawer…

The main idea of this tip is to not let your child see their devices until it’s time for them to use it.

Screen addiction is real and afflicts all kids of various ages. They don’t have as much self-control as adults do, and when they see their phones or tablets they’ll have a tendency to do everything possible to get it back.

As parents, you should help your child break this addiction by keeping the device out of sight. Don’t leave it in plain view because that’s asking for trouble- instead, stash it away in a drawer or something similar so they’d soon forget it as they’re doing other activities.

Try to hide the devices in a different place every so often so they won’t try to find it and sneak in some screen time of their own.

Participate in the Activity…

Parents can hit two birds with one stone by planning their activities around group play and social interaction. In other words, you’ll be part of the offline play and spending time with your child.

A good example is to teach your child to be creative with building blocks such as Lego. You show them how it’s done and how it can be used to build something that’s straight out of their imagination.

Help your child and they’ll have an easier time getting into the activity. This is the time to learn more about your child and discover what his or her interests are, as well as see what they’re naturally good at.

Along the way, you can map out the activity for the coming weeks and tailor it according to their strengths and preference. For example, if your child loves to use his or her imagination you can opt for traditional toys, while those who love exercise will do well with outdoor and active physical activities.

Walk the Walk…

Once you start the plan you should also follow the rules- if they get only a few hours of screen time, then that should mean you only get a few hours as well.

Adopt the new lifestyle routine and work on this as a family. Take the time to learn more about your kids and spend time with them to grow your relationships. You can also follow the steps outlined above, e.g., putting away your phone or computer, or spending time on a different hobby or exercise.

Over time, you’ll find yourself not looking at your phone every minute and actually enjoying other things, such as gardening, nature or observing your child at play.

Keep the Unplugged Lifestyle…

Limiting screen time helps shape good behaviour and weans your child away from spending too much time in front of their devices.

It will definitely help to keep things fresh so you won’t run out of exciting activities. Plan ahead and set up new routines, such as having a healthy snack or exercising for up to 20 minutes whenever they finish school, for example.

You’ll know the program works when your children spend less time on their iPads and forget about playing them from time to time. They live a balanced life and spend time on other things, such as creative play and educational content, among others.