I was already working on a list of “things that must happen before I employ screen time” for my children, when I met Nina Hersher, the owner of Nourishing Habits and co-founder of the Digital Wellness Warriors. We have “no phone zones in our home” and hold regular talks about technology and cybersecurity.
But I felt the need for more practical tips and tricks to finally bring digital wellness into our family.
I asked Nina for advice. Here are some practical tips and tricks she recommends, and that can help you, too:
- Set phone-free zones in the house
- The first step is creating an environment that sets your family up for success.
- No phones in the bedroom, at the dinner table, or during playtime in the backyard. If kids need a timer for an outdoor game, give them an egg timer!
- This will help condition kids to connect over meals, enjoy self-directed play outside, and read a book to get to sleep!
- Start the healthy conditioning young (It’s hard to tell a teen he can’t keep a tablet in his room overnight if you didn’t start that habit when he was in 1st grade).
- Plan unplugged time for the family
- Focus primarily on parental connection. Be an involved parent and a role model. Be present. You will find out what’s going on with your kids when they are relaxed and connected to you.
- Plan fun activities during unplugged time so kids look forward to it. Create a list of family activities together with the kids to guarantee engagement.
- Update this list periodically, every 2 months or so. As kids grow, preferences for family activities change.
- Get creative. Don’t limit your ideas to home activities. Get out into nature and your community.
- Post screen time limits
- Kids don’t know what you don’t tell them. Make healthy tech rules clear.
- Children 2-5 years of age should be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming.
- Ages 6+ should be limited to 2 hours.
*Be reasonable and allow exceptions. If your child is sick, at a sleepover or has a special playdate with a friend, consider being flexible.
- Let them choose the type of screen time
- TV, iPad, Video games, surf the web outside of homework (parent pre-approved websites).
- Allowing kids to choose the type of screen time cultivates introspection and prioritization. It also gives them a sense of autonomy as their sense of self and expression develops.
- Eliminate screen time discrepancies
- You are the authority on enforcing screen time, but you’re not alone! Set yourself up for success.
- Post the rules somewhere visible in the house. Under the rules, create a docking station for phones and tablets with chargers. This lends itself to kids’ accountability in returning and charging devices. it will also allow you to see if a device is missing come evening time.
- Use timers and tools to support screen-time restrictions so kids know when time is up. This way, you won’t have to take away or power down the device.
It’s important to have a clear and open strategy, known by all members of the family. And that parents are the first to comply.