We often find ourselves in hibernation mode over the winter months. Instead of hopping from park to park and playing outside, children spend more time inside which can lead to more exposure to screens and devices then we would like. How do we manage screen time, promote positive habits and strike a balance with getting some outdoor activity time in? Here are my tips on how to manage your child’s screen time this winter:
Plan, Don’t Ban Screen Time
Kids will protest if you ban all screen time and your good intentions will backfire. In this day and age, it is not realistic to ban something entirely that is so predominant in our society. We need to teach our kids – by setting limits – how to manage screens and use them in a healthy way. Spend time discussing and establishing your family’s rules around device use and screen time. Ask your child to contribute their ideas and needs so that you can collaborate together to establish the guidelines.
If your child is of the younger age (2-5 years) this may include asking them what show or game they would like to play each day and then building that screen activity into their daily routine. For example; come home from school, wash your hands, have a snack and then watch one Paw Patrol episode, then play in the basement. If your child is older (6-10 years) it might be worthwhile to get a day planer to block out time for screens and time for other activities such as chores, homework, sports, meal time etc. Including your children in the plan will encourage them to participate. This way, rules and expectations are not being imposed on them by you and they will recognize that you have worked with them to meet their needs as well as your own.
Quality over Quantity
Find high quality, age appropriate content for your children to engage with. It is important to be aware of what they are engaging with and why. Common Sense Media is a great resource for parents to use as it rates and reviews apps, games, websites, TV shows and movies. It is important for parents of older children who use screen time more independently to be in the know. Parents should understand the language and apps or social media that their kids are using. When you have this knowledge your can discuss them with your kids then guide your child on appropriate and safe ways to engage with this form of media.
Model Positive Behaviour
Parents are their children’s best teachers. Our children are watching us all the time and learning from what we do. Therefore, it is important for parents to model the behaviour that they want their children to show. This is especially important with screens because children are fascinated by them and most often their first exposure to devices is in their homes, used by their parents.
It is important for parents to set boundaries around where and when they use devices. A great way to demonstrate these boundaries is to have a basket or tray in a central part of the home and establish specific times when there are no screens used. For example, devices should be placed in the basket he dinner table or at bedtime.
Parents need to use media in a way that they want their children to engage with media. Talk to your kids about how you use your devices – there are many positives that screens provide to us – it is important to make your kids aware of this. Next time you pick up your phone to check for a recipe or look at your calendar, let your kids know what you are doing, otherwise they might think you are consistently playing games and that is the only use for the device.
Crowd Out Screen Time
Plan tech-free activities throughout the winter months so that kids are engaged with physical activity, family, friends, outdoor play and unstructured playtime. Some ways to get children excited about these activities are:
- ask them what they would like to do,
- research ideas with them
- communicate when these activities are going to happen so your kids are in the know and can look forward to the fun.