I want to reduce screen time in my house: what can I do?
If you and your family have too much screen time (answer these four questions if you’re not sure) and feel the need to unplug, but not know where to start, here are some ideas that might help.
The purpose is not to completely eliminate screens – that would be an unrealistic goal today- but to control and reduce the time spent passively watching a display to an amount that is reasonable and safe for your family.
1.Make a plan with a maximum screen time allowed on weekdays and weekends. Create a digital schedule for the whole family and get creative. For example, add a digital-free day and a game day to the calendar to compensate. Discuss the boundaries of screen use that you will adopt and why.
2.Set a timer to monitor how long family members stay on apps, games and email. The next step is to gradually reduce this, especially if your digital activity is not so important, or if it can be postponed or replaced with offline activity.
3.Prioritize face-to-face interaction and plan to meet your friends or co-workers in person instead of using chat and getting dragged into time-consuming online conversations. Make phone calls with distant loved ones and meet face-to-face with relatives nearby.
4.Replace screen time with outdoor time. Running and playing outside benefits all family members, and even a short walk is better than staying on the couch.
5.Have a Plan B with offline activities for evenings. When you take away smart gadgets, children might say they are bored and don’t know what else to do. So let them play a board game, cook something, engage in craft, or draw and encourage them to take up a new hobby.
6.Set a smartphone ”hotel” – a place in your house to leave the phones. Don’t carry them in your pocket when at home. It might be better to turn off push notifications so you’re not tempted to check them constantly.
7.Create digital-free zones in the house where gadgets are not allowed: the dining room, bedroom, kids’ room, bathroom. Don’t eat while watching screens, as you may lose track of meals. Also, specialists recommend screens be avoided for an hour before sleep.
8.Talk to kids about online dangers (too much screen time included), so they can understand that restrictions and precautions are for their safety. Explain how violent video games, movies, images and certain types of people (such as predators and cyberbullies) can be harmful to them and how you can work together to reduce risks.
Screen time keeps children quiet, and there are moments when parents need a break or time to solve urgent matters. It’s not bad if screen time represents a temporary solution for them. But there are other moments in family life that can be filled with the joy of spending time with each other, and not with screens. It’s up to parents to find a balance.
(Article inspired by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) recommendations for parents)digital parenting screen time