One of my beautiful followers offered to write this useful blog for parents on how to reduce screen time in your home. This is definitely a subject I get a lot of questions about, but it didn't feel authentic coming from me to write this blog and how it worked for 'me' as we don't own a TV and my girls have always had no screen time up until a few months ago.
Their screen time is now is a 30 minute episode of Playschool, 2-3 times a week using an iPad on our coffee table (they don't play games on this, its purely for this and audio books at rest time).
We make sure to do it at different times in the day so they don't get used to having it at the same time and therefore, don't expect it everyday. We also sit together during screen time so we can later talk about what they did or create something that they may have made.
Please remember that screens can be a good tool to use and watching them can add to children's play and creativity when they re-tell things that they have seen through play.
Also some days in motherhood can be rough (we've all been there) so if you need it to stay sane for the day then use it! If you're trying to cook dinner and the kids are hanging off you, you've been up all night with the kids or you just NEED some time out, use it and don't feel guilty about it!
Now a big thank you to Shavounne for writing this below! I sure hope it helps you if reducing your screen time is something you're trying to do!
Cutting down on screen time
Cutting down on screen time feels like an overwhelming task. It’s a habit as a parent just as much for our children. There will be tantrums and frustrations but it passes much quicker than what we might imagine. Surprisingly you do start to forget it in your routine. For us with my 2yo, it took about a week to see a noticeable difference! Though it got easier after day 3.
In my son, I noticed a dramatic change in his behaviour and play once we cut down on tv (that’s the only screen he accessed). Differences in him I found:
- Longer concentration and attention span
- Less boredom
- Increased quality of play and duration of independent play
- Ability to create his own play more
- Less negative outbursts of energy
- Easier to settle for bed at night
Before you start cutting down on screen time think about some of these:
- Decide on your new boundaries
- Talk to your partner so they are on board and in on the plan
- Watch your child and note their interests so that you can use these as their distractions and invitations to play
- Know that the hard phase does end! Please believe me that once their mind gets used to not having the quick pace of screens, their concentration and attention span for play really does increase dramatically! Their quality of play is so different once screens are removed / limited
- Have in mind some distractions and play ideas you can fall to such as walks, the park, play dates, baking are all good time fillers to help get you all through
- Embrace (and expect) boredom! It’s actually really important and you are doing your child a service to allow it! They use many skills to overcome this. The skill of overcoming boredom themselves becomes much easier after the adjustment phase
Tips on starting and seeing it through - What I did with my 2yo
- We did it cold turkey. Turned it all off for a week to get his system reset and then introduced it again where we thought was appropriate (this may not be practical for everyone)
- Be gentle but firm. I was stern with the new boundaries but also encouraging and sensitive to how frustrated he was. When asked for the tv I told him “no we don’t have tv today. But we can play....” or “no we don’t have the tv today, but can you help me....”
- I began including him more with chores and what I was doing with an age appropriate version (or adapt an activity relating to the chore)
- Saying “play with your toys” is a bit vague and overwhelming so I tried to avoid this. I would always offer something specific and when I offered a play idea I always sat down with him to start him off. I would leave once he was engaged and return briefly if and when needed.
- I always tried to remain calm and encouraging. If there was a tantrum or protest I would remind him “there’s no tv today, I’m sorry that is upsetting. But we can do this ...” and again, stayed with him to engage him in something.
- When it came to boredom: I didn’t fix it every time during (and after) cutting down on screen time. If a few offers for play weren’t accepted, I gave him TIME to look around and see what he can do to help himself. This time was always frustrating for us both but it ended in some of his longest independent play sessions
- Set up an environment to encourage play. Toys and craft supplies accessible and VISIBLE are a massive help.
- Set up some (simple) invitations to play for the morning when they wake up. I usually aimed for a toy set up and a craft or sensory set up so there was something to change between.
- I provided a level of control to avoid frustration if a session time was ending ie. “please press the off button now”
- If he was continually upset after screen time was allowed I did say a few times “I’m sorry you’re very upset, maybe we shouldn’t watch tv for awhile”
- Sometimes just sitting and playing myself with something was enough to encourage him to join or choose something himself if he wasn’t interested in anything.
- I started the day with spending time with him for 5-15 minutes. We read a book or explored the invitation to play instead of making my tea and getting breakfast started straight away. This really gave him a confidence boost in the morning.
If your child is old enough, it may be helpful to explain why you’re limiting screen time to help the acceptance.
Changing your boundaries is ok. If you need to increase or decrease time allowed because it’s what suits your family, that’s more then alright. There is no failure, just doing what is best for your family.
I want to encourage you that if screen time increases for whatever reason, it is more than ok. I have had to go back and decrease it again a handful of times (my son is now 3.5yo). I often know it’s needed when he gets agitated, has an increase of “hypo” periods or his play quality decreases.