Children are now faced with increasingly more options for screened entertainment, leaving families disconnected and disengaged.
Would it surprise you to know that 2-5-year-olds watch more than 32 hours of TV a week? (Nielsen) Many children learn to operate sophisticated remote controls before their third birthday and sit mesmerized in front of the screen. In fact, many parents include television as part of a child’s bedtime routine, unaware that television viewing before bed may disturb children’s sleep patterns.
Children ages 8-18 spend more than 53 hours a week online and almost 8 hours of media use each day. (Keiser Family Foundation) In today’s digital world, families are exposed to more screen time than ever before. Smartphones, tablets, YouTube and the ever-popular game, Minecraft are just a few of the many sources of electronic connection that vie for time and attention from both parents and children.
Research demonstrates that screen time can negatively influence brain development. But you don’t need research to know that your children are on their screens too much each day; you know this from your own wisdom and intuition. But not many of us want to pull the plug on television. We want our kids to keep up with technology and learn new skills that will help them in their lives, but we know that too much media use prevents them from becoming proficient in person-to-person communication skills.
The key lies in finding a balance. What you can do to help your kids find that balance of screen time with “real life” is to work together to set limits around daily media use…including your own.
The Positive Discipline Association suggests the following tools to help manage your family’s screen time so it doesn’t manage you:
1. Have a family meeting. Get the whole family involved in a plan for reducing screen time. Part of the solutions should include things to do in place of screen time. It is more difficult to give something up when you don’t have plans for what else to do.
2. Create a “parking lot” for electronics—have a basket or charging station in a central location in the house at which family members “park” their electronics during certain times of day.
3. Establish new routines. Start with one time of day to be screen free (such as dinner) and periodically add on other times of day.
4. Stay close with your child with special time. Children will listen to your limits about screen time when they feel understood and that you “get” them. Spend regular one-on-one time together to keep your relationship strong.
5. Hold limits with kindness and firmness. Changing a screen time habit is hard; be ready for disappointment, anger, and sad feelings. Hold your limits by empathizing with a child’s feelings and sticking with the limit you’ve set.