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This guest post was written by Jenny Silverstone, who is just another mom trying to do her best. She loves making lists and helping others find what they are looking for. When she’s not trying to get her kids outside out of the house, she enjoys blogging the struggles and triumphs of feeding her kids at Mom Loves Best and Pinterest.
We all know that technology has become a huge part of our children’s daily routines. According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, daily media use among children and teens has risen dramatically. Today, 8- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media daily (more than 53 hours a week!). Common Sense Media reports a huge increase in the use of mobile media by young children in the past couple of years. This increased use of technology brings many challenges, as children are:
- Spending less time playing outside in nature.
- Having difficulty sleeping.
- Focusing less on creative activities.
- Communicating in brief snippets, which hinders their vocabulary, creativity, social skills, ability to connect emotionally, and non-verbal communication.
All of these issues eventually impact children’s overall health and happiness. They need time away from screens to relax, rest, and recharge.
It may seem so easy to just turn on the TV or sit our kids in front of an iPad to entertain them while we get stuff done around the house. But – let’s be honest – using technology to babysit our kids comes with a healthy dose of guilt. We know that screen time is not the best for our children, but we love the respite it gives us. So how can we reduce our dependence on electronic babysitters and find a balance between sanity and screen time? Here are six tips for you to try in your home:
Turn Off The TV For One Week
Sometimes the best way to break a bad habit is to completely disengage from it for a period of time. While it might sound daunting, I promise it will get easier after a few days. Pulling the plug completely will also help your children to stop relying on the television for entertainment and force them to find new ways to entertain themselves. I bet you will be surprised how fast the whining stops!
Set Strict Time Limits
When you reintroduce the privilege of screen time, set strict time limits – and stick to them. Parents become addicted to the easy tech breaks just as much as kids get addicted to the entertainment, so this is a challenge for both of you. Have your child “earn” screen time through reading or establish a daily time limit. Use a timer to make sure the limits are respected, and when the timer goes off, so do the electronics.
Remember that boredom is not a disease that needs to be cured. Boredom is actually healthy, and kids need to experience it as part of their normal developmental process to learn how to fill and manage their time efficiently. Boredom also fosters creativity and imagination. So if your child, while withdrawing from screens, starts whining that they are bored, just respond with, “Good! I’m sure you’ll figure out some great way to fill your time.” Fight the urge to help them come up with solutions. Trust me. They will figure it out.
Encourage Time Outside
Nothing sparks a child’s imagination like time outdoors. Take your child to the beach and watch them play in the sand for hours. Walk in the woods and let them discover how sticks and rocks make better toys than Legos or Matchbox cars. Send them out into the backyard and see how they entertain themselves with simple pretend play. Screen time won’t even cross your kids’ minds when they are outside enjoying themselves.
Insist On Daily Quiet Time
You do need your sanity, and it is possible to get it without using electronics. Insist that your children have a daily “quiet time” for 1.5 to 2 hours each day. If they are past the age of napping, suggest that they look at books in their room or play quietly and independently with toys. While it might not feel blissful the first day you institute your new quiet time policy, if you are firm with your expectations your kids will catch on quickly. This will then become a time that they look forward to every day. After all, quiet time for kids also means quiet time for parents.
You do not have to completely give up electronics when you give up screens. Audiobooks are great – especially for children who can’t read well on their own yet – and allow children’s imaginations to still run wild while keeping them entertained. Retailers like Amazon have tons of options, or check out your local library’s selection for free audiobook downloads. Your child will love hearing stories, and you will love that you do not always have to be the one that reads them.
Technology adds so much value to our lives, but it can also detract from our parenting if we rely on it too heavily. As parents, we need to make sure we are not only taking care of our kids, but we need to take care of ourselves as well. With a little effort, we can train our kids – and ourselves – to be less dependent on electronic babysitters. The end result will be happier, healthier children who are more creative and independent.
How do you manage your children’s technology time?