Balancing Screen Time and Family Time

Let’s face it, kids can’t get enough of technology. So, let’s talk screen time. TV shows, the internet, and video games can offer children a creative source of learning and entertainment if they are used appropriately. The issue is, screen time is easy to overdo.

Too much screen time can have unhealthy consequences for your child and family relationships. Studies from American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have linked excessive screen time to childhood obesity, language delays, and lower literacy rates. Relationships are affected as well. When we are staring at screens, we aren’t interacting with each other. Overuse of technology can dramatically take away from quality family time.

But what exactly is screen time?

 Screen time is any passive time spent sitting in front of a video game, TV, cell phone/tablet, or computer (KidsHealth from Nemours).

So what does this mean?

 We get it. After a long day of work, finding the energy and time to keep children away from screens is difficult (especially if they are already in the habit of turning on the TV or video game after school). Between TV, phones, video games and tablets, screen time can add up quickly for the whole family. As uncomfortable as it may be in the beginning, there are steps you can take as a family to ensure each person is using reasonable amounts of screen time.

First things first…

Get an idea of how much time your family is spending on electronic devices.  Use the We Can! Screen Time Chart to track all of your family’s screen time. This will give you a good idea of how much time is spent on devices.  You can begin thinking about what changes can be made to reduce screen time and increase family time.

Set Limits

 If you find your family is clocking in more than the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) listed above, you may want to brainstorm the most effective way to get down to one hour, whether that’s working your way down gradually or cutting down right away. Either way, setting limits and sticking to them will be key to reducing your child’s overall screen time.

PRO TIP: Use a timer to alert your child when their screen time is up.  It’s hard to debate with a clock!

Make Goals

Following limits is much easier when you have a goal to work toward. If your family aims to have no more than one hour of screen time a day, pair that limit with the goal of one hour of active play each day. Help your child focus on what they can do- hide and seek, draw with chalk, jumping rope, game of soccer, etc., rather than the screen time that’s being restricted. Consider starting an outdoor project, such as a family garden, to keep them engaged!

Cutting back on screen time allows families to spend more time doing physical activity and having quality family interactions. It also reduces the risk of your child being exposed to inappropriate content and the dangers of the internet. The time that children are spending watching TV, playing video games, or searching the internet should be monitored and supervised. Be sure to check out the additional resources listed below for more information on internet safety. 

Additional Resources:

Not all apps are created equal. This article can help you learn more about choosing appropriate apps for screen time.

Learn more about internet safety from Nemours article on Healthy Habits for TV, Video Games, and the Internet.

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