As a mom of three, I know firsthand how easy it is to fall into the trap of unlimited screen time. Whether it’s the TV, a tablet, or a smartphone, screens are everywhere and they’re often a convenient way to keep kids entertained.
However, I also know that too much screen time can lead to behavior challenges and other issues. That’s why my family has made the decision to limit our screen time to just 45 minutes a day, a recommendation we received from our pediatrician.
In this blog post, I’ll share the challenges we faced with unlimited screen time and how we enforce our 45-minute limit.
Hopefully, our experience will inspire other families to consider setting limits on screen time and find ways to make it work for their own households.
Setting Screen Time Boundaries
It is your responsibility as a parent to set a daily screen time restriction and to enforce it.
Children who have clear boundaries from their parents will respect these restrictions, and implementing your rules consistently tells them where the line is set. When the screens are turned off, they grasp the rules, and there is no need for tears or tantrums.
There are also innovative ways you can include into your everyday life to encourage your children to earn their screen time, in whatever quantity your family selects, which is a win-win situation for both parents and children.
Limiting screen time does not make you a “mean parent,” it makes you a conscientious parent who is concerned about their children’s well-being.
The Effects Of Too Much Screen Time For Children
More than one hour of screen usage each day has been proven in studies to be harmful to young children.
That is all you have before negative psychologicalal repercussions affect your sleep, bodily and emotional well-being, and even your relationship with your child.
One hour each day equates to the time spent watching television, using tablets, talking on the phone, using gaming systems, and even using portable entertainment centers in your minivan.
It has been shown that children who use gadgets for one hour or less each day have the same degree of well-being as children who are not exposed to screens at all during the day.
When children of any age surpass the 60-minute daily usage threshold, there is a significant link between screen time and the negative impacts it has on sleep, eyesight, physical health, mental health, friendships, and family connections.
Screen time on tablets, gaming, watching movies and television, using phones and other gadgets has largely supplanted more conventional childhood pastimes, as adults have certainly experienced.
According to studies, today’s kids spend less time outside and participate in less physical exercise than earlier generations.
Less screen time equals more time for them to use their imaginations, read, be creative, and play outside!
How To Create Limits On Screen Time
You are the parent, the adult in the home and it is up to you how much screen time you allow in your home. Yes, pediatricians all over the world recommend one hour per day, but in your home, you set the rules. I set mine to 45 minutes, and if I need to go over because the baby is sleeping or myself being overly tired, I have an extra 15 minutes that I can allow once in a while.
It is not their fault if they have had too much screen time or are behaving inappropriately after using screens. It’s all yours.
If they get angry when it’s time to turn off the computer, I’ll explain precisely what we do in our house to stick to one hour a day and assist your kids to realize that when time’s up, there will be no fits or tantrums and they should go find something else to do.
Set Your Time Limit
Whatever time restriction you set, be prepared to enforce it down to the second. When the timer goes off, that’s it.
Setting limits in parenting is similar to setting boundaries for everything else. If you don’t follow through, your kids will rapidly learn that they can – and will – test those boundaries.
We establish a 45-minute time restriction on all screens and track it — the most essential aspect of restricting screen time – and once the time is up, it’s gone for the rest of the day.
That implies that if they utilize their time in the morning, there will be none later in the day. I realize it’s difficult to go from hours or an infinite amount of screen time to an hour or two, but the key to changing things is to keep to this time restriction.
Make Kids Earn Their Screen Time
If your child ____, he or she may use a gadget or watch a show.
My children must be dressed for the day, have their teeth brushed and hair brushed, must have had breakfast, must have had at least 1 hour of play outside and read, or had quiet time before they can even ask me for screen time. They may earn 45 minutes of screen time every day if they complete all of this.
Enforce Firm Screen Use Limits & Use a Timer
If your children have earned their screen time for the day by checking all the boxes on the screen time regulations of an allowance chart, it is your responsibility as a parent to supervise their screen use.
What is the simplest method to accomplish this?
Set a timer on your phone or use a kitchen timer; even a microwave timer would suffice.
When the alarm goes off, all gadgets go off as well. As easy as that.
When you create a limit, it is critical to follow through on it; otherwise, sticking to it gets more difficult with each passing day. Worse yet? Your children will learn that you are a slacker and will want more time from you every day.
It’s as if you told your child that they could only ride their bike in the driveway, but when you go outside and see them riding in the street without an adult to monitor… They’d most likely lose the ability to ride their bike. Right?
If a kid does not complete their schoolwork, reading time, housework, or whatever checklist you need of them, they will not be able to earn screen time. If they do earn their time, it is still your responsibility to supervise it.
The more you practice and stay with this step, the more your kids will comprehend when the alarm goes off and be less reactive when it’s time to click the off button.
Yes, it won’t happen the first time or even the first few times, but they’ll realize what the boundary is, and you’ll be able to stand your position if you keep to the limits and don’t let anything go.
That is when acceptance occurs, and when it is time to switch off devices, kids will do so without tears, irritation, or outbursts.
Allow Kids To Earn More Screen Time (If You Like)
In our house, we have Screen Time Saturdays, where I allow the kids to watch shows or play video games until I wake up for the day. If our kids wake up at 9am then they don’t really get any extra time, so I allow an hour or so and have myself some quiet time.
Also if they wake up at 6am, they have to have games off by 8am at the latest. This works for us. My 9-month-old likes to sleep in until 10am, so I do like to have the house fairly calm until she wakes. My boys didn’t sleep for the first 5 years of their life, so her sleeping in is a blessing that I cherish.
If you like, you can use chore charts and if the children complete extra chores, maybe they can have an extra 30 minutes of screen time. Whatever the limit you set is, is completely up to you.
Don’t cave in and spend infinite hours on screens – incentives must still have limitations.
That effectively negates the entire point of establishing appropriate screen time restrictions, and I already know that when the kids play for too long, they are less cooperative and I will undoubtedly see more disruptive behavior, so why would I allow them to earn something that leads to this? No way, no how.
Make it a point to reward your children for doing well, behaving properly, and thinking through their actions.
Giving children a reward of additional screen time is simple, inexpensive, and a powerful motivator for kids to do the right thing throughout the week. Especially because this extra time can be incorporated into your calendar.
Negative Effects of too Much Screen Time
- Problems with children’s behavior and learning – While turning on the TV or watching a YouTube video may temporarily soothe your child, too much screen time might lead to behavioral difficulties in the long run. According to Mattke, “excessive TV consumption is linked to delays in cognition, language, and social-emotional development.”
- Obesity –When you’re staring at a screen, you’re usually seated or lying down. This implies that when you spend more time in front of a computer, you spend more time sedentary, which raises your risk of obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease.
- Problems with sleep – “A growing amount of data shows that media consumption has a detrimental impact on sleep in both children and adults,” adds Mattke. This is partially due to the fact that electronic gadgets generate a form of blue light that can reduce melatonin levels, a hormone that controls when you sleep and wake up.
- Neck and back pain –Long periods of time spent staring at a phone or tablet screen can put a lot of strain on your neck muscles and the tiny bones at the top of your spine. This is because it causes us to maintain an unnaturally stooped posture for long periods of time.
Let Kids Be BORED
Shout it out loud. Let. The. Kids. Be Bored!
But Moooooooom, there’s NOTHING to do around here. Heard that before. My response? Sorry to hear that.
Even if your children complain that they are “bored” or “have nothing to do,” don’t attempt to find things for them to do; instead, let them be creative with their “boredom.”
You don’t have to provide them with an infinite supply of activities or amuse them every minute of the day.
I’m not scared to let my kids be bored since I know that’s when they get the most creative and allow their imaginations to run wild! They may whine for 15 or 20 minutes, but as long as I don’t give in to screens, they always (always) come up with something entertaining or creative to do.
What you must be constant in is refusing to give in and remaining firm when the moaning and whining begins. Say no to screens or devices, even if they urge you for them during these “boredom” periods.
Although it is nearly difficult to avoid using screens in our everyday lives, we may establish time limitations on how much time we spend on them.
To avoid early learning and behavior problems in children, it’s important to follow professional advice. If you’re concerned that your screen use is causing problems, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about how you might change your daily routines.