As many as 40 percent of children under 2 years old have used smartphones and tablets, says Common Sense Media. And older kids spend as many as 7.5 hours in front of a screen each day.* Screen time is an easy way to keep your child busy while you cook dinner or clean up, but too much screen time has been linked to hyperactivity and emotional and behavioral problems—a few things that won’t exactly make your evening any easier.
In need of a family digital detox? Try these tips.
*Kaiser Family Foundation 2010 study: Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds
Replace screen time with activity
It's hard to get kids off the couch to “exercise.” Get creative and make moving fun for kids. Try going for a bike ride, taking a family walk, shooting hoops or dancing yourselves silly.
Turn off screens one hour before bedtime
It is important to turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime. This includes TVs, phones, tablets, etc. The light coming from the screen delays your body’s natural release of melatonin, which is responsible for telling your body it’s time to sleep. Not only will turning off screens an hour before bed help kids sleep better, it will also help limit their overall screen time for the day.
No screens in the bedrooms
Ban all screens, including handheld devices, from the bedroom. A beep, vibration or burst of light from a phone (even to just check the time) can break a sleep cycle. Use a regular alarm clock instead. Removing devices from the bedroom means kids can't text, call or play at all hours of the night.
Mealtime is family time
Leave the phones and tablets before you sit down at the table. Being distracted by phones, handheld devices and TV shows during mealtime takes away from the opportunity to have some quality family time. It also makes it hard to pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness signals, which can lead to overeating.
Gradually reduce screen time
Figure out how much screen time is typical for your family, and then reduce it by 30 minutes each week until you reach your goal. Ask your kids to select a few favorite shows. Then allow them to watch only those shows, and avoid keeping the TV on at other times as “background noise.” Setting firm screen time limits will make getting ready for a bed a little easier.
Be a role model
Parents, you are the role models in your home, so set a good example when it comes to a digital detox and limiting screen time. Lead by example and encourage your kids to do the same.