Here are 5 ways to limit your child’s screen time – without tantrums!
Busy, business, boss moms, we all do this: shove a screen in our kids’ hands before they have a chance to wail the dreaded “Mom, I’m bored!” bit or protest at your lack of attention.
But, the truth is that even top tech execs like Sundar Pichai are into “low tech parenting” — which means you must try and limit screen time, especially when children are at the early childhood developmental stage.
Luckily, you don’t need to adopt a whole new philosophy of parenting or throw your television out. Just exercise these 5 tips to limiting your kids screen time, for a way more sane experience.
1. Be Present During Screen Time
One of the best ways to have your young child enjoy screen time even more is — believe it or not — being present.
That “believe it or not” was sarcastic, by the way. It’s no secret that young children crave their parents’ open expressions of affection, love and need their presence.
Someday, they’ll be heading off to high school without so much as a backward glance and be way more interested in what their friends think. But, for now, you have them right there with you — so why not enjoy your time together?
Use apps that you can both enjoy or play two player games where both you and your child can enjoy “screen time” together.
2. Allow Your Child To Pick the Time
Even if it’s parents who have the “final say”, young children still want to feel empowered. While parents can look on with a mixture of amusement and love at their child standing proud at making their own clothing decisions, for example, for a child, decision-making and expressing choice is a powerful teacher — and a powerful incentive for them to take direction.
If they can feel they have some say in their world, children feel that they can create and follow rules safely, without a sense of love and affection being withheld.
So, let your child know that they get to pick when in the day they can enjoy screen time. You can set the limit for how long. But the “when” is really up to them.
3. Let them Organize Their Apps
No doubt, if your child is a lover (and, thus, an avid user) of the family tablet or your smartphone, he’s already sweet-talked you into installing and downloading apps on to your device.
Tablets and smartphones can get quite clogged, over time, with your kids’ apps — and the educational ones you’ve sneakily tried to download for them as well.
In this case, call your child to you and tell them that it’s time to organize their apps. It’s an activity you can both do together. Create two groups: one for “educational” apps and games and one that’s just for “fun”. Then, go through each app and ask them to assess where it should go.
Make an agreement that their time will be split between these two groups equally. Having your child organize their apps helps them take responsibility and ownership of their choices.
You’ll also want to ensure you’re limiting screen time based on activity or app. For example, if the tablet is a learning tablet by a children’s brand, it’s more likely to have educational software on there.
4. Plan for Unstructured Playtime
Throughout the day, whether it’s in your backyard or it requires you (or your spouse!) taking the kids out to a park, plan for unstructured playtime. This is time in the day where kids can run free and let their imaginations soar.
It’s no secret that play and performance is how young children develop self-esteem and an understanding of the world around them.
Having a unstructured block of time for them to engage with each other or with their surroundings also helps to keep a balance between screen time and not.
5. Keep It Routine and Encourage Other Activities
At an early childhood stage, a child’s sense of expectation is very important to understanding and processing the world around them. If a child can expect a particular routine, they can feel a sense of security and calm.
If you’ve noticed that your child is likely to throw a heavy tantrum after screen time is up, don’t feel bad. This little monster that’s rearing it’s head is not your child — it’s just her reaction to something being taken away.
Something that she had gotten used to enjoying.
To avoid these tantrums and to make the transition smooth, introduce a new activity she’s sure to enjoy just as much — every single time “screen time” is done.
This means that, if your child loves crafts and coloring, create a small station or give her the implements to color or create a craft out of. Set this as a routine and then feed her expectation. Try to avoid toys that are dangerous or are defective and can be hazardous to a child’s health.
Helping her to transition between activities in this way will solidify her understanding that the end of screen time is not necessarily the end of fun as she knows it. It’s just time for a change — and it’s a change she already knows and loves to do.
Written by Emily Green for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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