Six Suggestions for Limiting Screen Time
Managing children’s use of technology/social media/screen time is an ongoing battle. Studies have demonstrated that the use of technology affects the reward center of the brain. When children receive “likes” on social media, this reward center is activated. http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/12/health/social-media-brain/ So it is no wonder that children (and adults) become addicted. Children simply need adult guidance and limit setting when it comes to electronics use. Unfortunately, that often leads to parent-child conflict, less satisfaction in parenting, and tired and weary parents!
Here are six simple ways to limit screen time without the need to micromanage your child. When these become “family rules” that all must follow, it takes the pressure off of you. If it helps, create a visual list and post them around the house as reminders.
1.During dinner time, keep electronics off of the table. In addition, wherever the electronics are, turn them to silent mode. Nothing can zap your child’s attention than hearing the notification that a text or message came through. And nothing makes children feel less important than work when a parent checks work emails during dinner time. It can all wait until after the family meal. Finding the time to get the whole family to sit down for a meal together is hard enough! Don’t miss out on the opportunity for family interaction. For some additional ideas to make the most out of family dinners http://drpeggydelong.com/ten-ideas-to-make-the-most-of-family-dinners/
2. Avoid using electronics in the morning before work/school. The morning routine of getting the children ready for school and ready for work should be focused on family. Using technology involves intrusion – intrusion of responsibilities, to-do lists, social problems, scheduling problems, and problems of the world – into your sacred family time. When parents reach for the smartphone or other electronic device in the morning, they are no longer being present with their children. Parents and children can be having a peaceful morning with family, then see something upsetting in an email or post on social media, and immediately the mood in the home is negatively impacted. Here is a wonderful article by HandsFreeMama that beautifully describes the transformation when families make a conscious effort not to go on their devices in the morning. http://www.handsfreemama.com/2015/10/07/break-this-habit-to-create-more-time-goodness-in-your-day/
3. No screen time an hour before bedtime. Instead of screen time before bed, instill some family rituals. Keep them simple and short in time, so that you are more likely to stick to them. (Read a book together, do MadLibs, play a quick card game, etc.). If you are still not convinced that this is important, here is a great article discussing the negative impact of the use of technology on children’s sleep. http://qz.com/823439/british-researchers-confirm-that-screens-are-seriously-messing-with-your-kids-sleep-jama-pediatrics-meta-analysis-shows/
4. Keep technology out of the bedroom, for children and adults. Just as technology affects relationships in the morning, it affects relationships at night. A smartphone has no place when a couple desires quiet time and intimacy. When parents keep smartphones out of bedrooms, they set a positive example for children to follow. This is particularly important for children, as they need as much sleep as they can get. One study found that that 23% of children reported that they “almost always” wake up in the night to check or post on social media. There was a significant correlation with feeling tired, and this affects children’s overall sense of well-being. In addition to disrupting sleep, this can lead to mental health issues, as excessive social media use has been associated with mental health problems in children. You could have a family electronics charging spot for all devices in your kitchen. If your child uses the reason that he or she needs the device as an alarm to wake up in the morning, go out and buy an old-fashioned alarm clock! For more on why not to have devices in bedrooms http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/parents-kids-smartphones_us_5600226fe4b0fde8b0cef8f3
5. Resist the urge to use technology during “down” time. We have small periods of down time during the day, and we have become so accustomed to being entertained and processing information that we feel the need to fill a void when nothing is happening. We need that down time to unwind, think, process emotions and thoughts, or just be. We need that down time to connect with our children and just BE together in the absence of distraction. So resist the temptation to whip out the smartphone while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or while on line at the grocery store.
6. Get the most out of travel time. You could make a family rule that electronics and ear phones are not used for short car rides and other modes of transportation. These are the times when we can learn about our children’s days and their thoughts. Also, just being together, even in the absence of words, is an opportunity to connect – maybe just sing to the radio together! These are missed opportunities for connection if our children are plugged in and tuned out on their devices. Also, remember that it is not going to harm them, but it is important for children to feel “bored”. In the absence of conversation and electronics, your child may complain about feeling bored. This is a good thing! Boredom allows the mind to wander and fosters daydreaming. Some of children’s best thinking occurs when they allow their minds to wander. We deprive them of this opportunity when we allow them to constantly fill down time with an electronic device. For a list of some interesting conversation starters to keep in your car, or make up your own… http://drpeggydelong.com/30-questions-to-ask-your-child-at-the-end-of-the-school-day/