Screen time. It can be both the favorite and least favorite phrase of today’s parenthood. Screens are everywhere, and due to this, our kids are, in many instances, staying put in one place more than we ever did as kids. Do you remember your mom pushing you out the door in the morning and saying, “go play with your friends” or telling you to “be home by the time the lights come on”? If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, you probably do. Can you imagine saying the same things to your kiddos today? Probably not. As a society, we’ve grown weary of letting our kids play by themselves or be outdoors unsupervised, but in turn, our kids are spending so much more time on screens than we ever did.
What counts as a screen?
Most electronics that are used for entertainment count as a screen. The phone you pull out to keep them from melting down in a line — the tablet they watch in the car or while waiting for a meal in a restaurant. The computer or laptop they do their homework on or play games on after school. The TV they watch after dinner. The video games they play in the game room with friends. The reality is screens are everywhere in our children’s’ lives, and we have to figure out how much access we want them to have.
If your kids are older, they’ll likely need a bit more screen time because there’s a good chance they’ll need the computer for homework at night. There’s an even better chance they’ll want to play games with friends or watch YouTube videos after school. If they’re younger kids, they may want to watch cartoons on the TV or a movie on the tablet. Screens aren’t evil. We’re not saying don’t let your kids watch TV or movies at all. We agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics that screen time should be limited. As parents, we need to encourage kids to be more active and get them playing again and drawing and having fun. Kids learn so much through play. If we turn the screens off, we encourage them to play more.
Why does screen time matter?
The AAP recommends a maximum of 2 hours of sedentary screen time per day for kids. According to their research, the odds of a child being overweight are nearly 5X for kids who watch 5 hours or more of TV per day. Studies also show that kids who use more screens can struggle with sleep, and if they sleep with mobile devices in their room, it can lead to sleep disturbances.
How can you reduce screen usage in your home?
Create screen-free times or zones for your family. The AAP has a healthy kids family media use plan you can create together
Start by not allowing screens at the table during meals. Have a basket or shelf where everyone’s phones go. Turn off the TV the last hour before the kids get ready for bed. Spend time playing games, go to the park together, take a bike ride, get creative. There are so many things you can do with your kids to help reduce their screen time. Often kids want to watch TV or play online because they’re bored. Help them find something else to do. Coordinate a playdate, play a game with them, whatever sounds good to your family, and you will likely see a reduction in screen exposure quickly. The more fun you make real-life, the less exciting the fantasy behind the screen is for the kids.
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