Remember when you used to go to a restaurant with your family when you were young? Sometimes the restaurant would give you a kids menu that had a word search or “find the differences”? Sure, maybe there was a bit of your mom saying, “Put that down!” or “Stop hitting your sister!”, but things were different then.
You know, “then” wasn’t that long ago. Fast forward to “now”. Now, you see families having dinner with half of them with their faces moving from their plate to a screen. Maybe it’s an iPhone, maybe it’s a tablet, maybe it’s a smartwatch, but do kids even realize that there could be a word search right before their very eyes?
Geez, many restaurants even provide tablets at the table. Yeah, I’m looking at you Chili’s and Red Robin.
Yeah, I get it. We are EXHAUSTED! We need a bit of peace. We want to have a conversation that doesn’t involve gritting your teeth at some point, so we resort to giving our kids some kind of screen so we can have some space. Listen, I’m no better than you. I do the same thing.
Let’s also make this an official JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE! Please! Please don’t judge me for giving my kids a screen so I can talk to my husband, sister, best friend, or whoever is across the table from me. Don’t judge me for allowing my kids to watch ANOTHER episode of The Wiggles so I can get this article written. Don’t judge me for giving them a tablet on a long car ride so I can avoid the dreaded, “Are we there yet?”. Please. Just please don’t judge me.
So now what? We are raising a generation of screen addicts. OH also, while we are on the subject, I’m a bit of an addict too. You might be too since you are reading this on a screen. I stand up and admit it. I know how many times I pick up my iPhone a day (there’s an app for that) and trust me, you don’t want to know. I’m embarrassed to admit it. But enough about me, I want better for my kids. So now what?
Facts About Screen Addiction
- The average 8- to 10-year old child spends nearly 8 hours a day with various media. Older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day. (NYTimes)
- Over half of 12- to 17-year old children send and receive more than 60 text messages a day. (NYTimes)
- Teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night AFTER they get in bed, contributing to sleep deprivation. (NYTimes)
- 92% of teens go online daily. 24% of those teens are online “almost constantly.” (PEW Internet Research)
- Several studies have shown that internet & gaming addictions can lead to atrophy in areas of the brain that govern executive function. (Psychology Today)
How can I stop screen addiction?
What can we do to help our kids disconnect from a screen and how can we help them fight screen addiction? Here’s some ideas that you can start today.
Also, be sure to download this FREE printable Screen Time Checklist to give your kids a list of things they need to do in order to earn screen time.
Establish daily “no tech” times
Choose times of the day where absolutely no screens/tech of any kind is acceptable. This goes for the kids, your spouse, and of course… you. This could be dinner time, after school, or not before 8 pm. You set the time, just be consistent.
Find activities to replace screen time
Consider a family sports night or a family game night. Check out a game like Not Parent Approved that will truthfully be fun for the whole family.
Get ready for the backlash
If your child has a true screen addiction, they aren’t going to give up their machine without a fight. They might feel like they NEED it. Just be ready and try to understand that it could be a true addiction.
Speak to your pediatrician if you suspect a real problem
They can guide you on topics like this and even refer you to a specialist if they (and you) feel it’s necessary.
Use an app to monitor your child’s devices
There are plenty of monitoring services on the market that allow parents to monitor their child’s smartphone or tablet, as well as view activity on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger Kids. Here’s a great article with many choices for monitoring apps.
If you feel like you can’t control your kids or your own screen time, consider downgrading to a flip phone. Yes, they still make them.
Go Cold Turkey
Consider a screen-free week! Yup. You read that right. WEEK! Consider planning your next family vacation at a place with no WIFI! What? Did you just read that right? Yup. You did. Many mountain areas (like the Adirondack Mountains for example) have a poor signal anyway. Use that to your advantage as a chance to unplug.
Remind them about those toys you bought them
Break out an old train set, some crayons, whatever to get the kids distracted.
Have the kids keep a diary. It will help them write out their thoughts and emotions, even about you taking away their screens!
Lead by example
If you are always on your phone…yeah…you get the point.
In stressful times, limiting screen time is a SERIOUS challenge. But you can do it! Typically, kids will fight you on it at first, but just keep at it and with the right schedule and tools, you’ll be having more quality family time in no time.