I’m in favor of limiting screen time. But sometimes life happens. Sometimes you come home from a 7 hour road trip in your minivan tricked out with a blu-ray player, and then spend 3 weeks dealing with the flu taking down family members like dominos. (If this sounds very specific, there’s a reason for that.)
Normally my kids get an hour or two of screen time in a day. But sometimes you need some full-time screen assistance while you shiver under a pile of blankets. The problem with this is what happens after. Once your kids get used to screen time all day, breaking the habit can be tough!
There are plenty of benefits to a screen time detox. These include all the usual suspects in terms of screen time detriment. Additionally, studies show that constant entertainment is not good for us, and that boredom increases creativity.
If excessive screen time becomes the norm in your household when your kids are little, it will likely carry over when they’re older. At that point they may have their own smartphones or tablets, meaning you’ll have less control over what they are accessing and when. It’s best to get them into the habit of doing a variety of things to entertain themselves in addition to screen time.
It’s great to say it’s best to limit screen time. It’s another thing to actually follow through in the face of screaming kids and a long to do list. So how do you implement a detox?
My kids are aware that, if they don’t follow screen time rules they have a day or two of no screen time. This includes using screens outside of the designated time. If you feel like you need a break from screens entirely, warn your kids and tell them why. They’re not going to be happy. But if you state your reason they’ll know you have one, and you’ll be more likely to follow through.
If you’d rather keep some limited screen time, set clearly defined rules around it. Let your kids know the consequences for not following those rules.
If there are things you want your kids to do each day, make those a prerequisite to screen time. My kids have read (or be read to) for at least 20 minutes, play outside with the dog, and pick up their toys before they can watch TV.
The most important rule for limiting screen time is to clearly state when screen time is allowed. This can be a time of day (after school) or specific circumstance (while you’re cooking dinner). When it’s not screen time, be doing something else with your kids. Ideally, don’t even be in the house. I know it’s tough to occupy kids all day, but this is not forever. The longer your kids have had excessive screen time the longer you’ll have to do it. Eventually, though, they’ll get used to the new screen time routine and you can step back and let them play independently.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes in the comments! I’d also love to hear your screen time rules!