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6 Easy Ways to Limit Screen Time for Kids

by Vidya Sury March 5, 2018 15 comments
How to limit screen time for kids #parenting #kidshealth #screentime

On a typical day, kids in the age group of 8-18 years enjoy at least 5 hours of screen time, sometimes more. Okay, usually more! Today, if we Google “kids screen time” there are hundreds of expert articles about why screen time should be limited for kids, and how too much screen time damages the brain. Clearly a warning to limit screen time for kids!

Children who watch too much TV, for instance, are at potential risk for the following:

  • Childhood obesity, which comes with its own bunch of related serious health issues
  • Aggressive behavior as a result of the content they see
  • Risky behavior when they are older
  • Less energy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Social awkwardness
  • Inability to focus in the classroom
  • Tougher time with academics
  • Overdose of information via commercials and other programming
  • Missing out on opportunities for outdoor play and connecting with friends

With even babies knowing how to swipe a screen before they can talk, it is time to take action.

Luckily, when my son was a toddler, we hardly used the internet. But by the time he was 5, it had occupied a permanent spot in our lives. It was so easy to simply “log in”, look for something and receive instant answers. Then, when our cell phones got smarter, it became even more addictive.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always marveled at how children are such quick learners with technology.  I remember when we were young, there were always arguments about which show to watch on the one TV in the living room. Today, our children have lots more choice and many more screens they can carry with them and watch, on the go.

How to limit screen time for kids #parenting #screentime #kidshealth

So how to limit screen time for kids?

After much brainstorming, here are some things we tried, with success.

  1. We did not buy my son his own phone or device until he was 17 and on the threshold of college. I know that sounds weird, but he was always within reach of a phone at school, and could call us whenever he wanted. His school was just 3 miles from where we lived.
  2. We did not have a TV in the bedroom. In fact, we did not encourage any electronics in the bedroom, except for the ancient alarm clock capable of waking the entire floor we lived in. We had two TVs and both were in common areas in the house where we could keep an eye on the shows he watched, making sure it was age appropriate. When he started using a computer, we kept track of which websites he visited, besides enabling the browser’s safety features.
  3. We spent time together as a family. We had dinner together and did not take phone calls during meal times.  We played games that involved face-to-face interaction and no devices. At most, we used paper and pencil to write. We walked together every evening and shared the day’s happenings. We went on weekend trips and picnics and spent time outdoors. We are fortunate to have a lake nearby that’s a pleasure to spend time at.
  4. We kept track of our own device use, as we wanted to set a good example. Luckily, neither my husband nor I are attached to our phones and this helped.
  5. We made rules that all of us followed. These included what time we would switch off the TV and computer, and we stuck to this diligently. This is easier than having those daily arguments. Some of our friends found this complicated to handle and simply solved the problem by cutting out the cable TV. Perhaps the tough one here is when they go on play dates and see different rules in different households. “How come they….. when we …..” was a standard question we tackled. We saw this as a good chance to explain why we did things differently.
  6. We encouraged our son to explore his interests quite young, and found he had an aptitude for art and music. He started going to a music school at the age of 8 and loved it. He enjoyed books, writing and delighted us with imaginative stories and poems. It is so important to have other options available so that kids don’t have to feel lost if the screen is taken away from them.

As I mentioned earlier, perhaps the most important tip is to set the example and model the behavior we want to see.  It is easy for children to slip into the same habits they see their parents follow. And once you set rules, of course some of their friends will find it odd that they are not up to date with what is happening with the current favorite show, but that really is okay.

Today, there are several apps that help with parental control to limit screen time.

Ironically, my son continues to enjoy free time listening to music or singing, writing screenplay scripts using a spirally bound notebook and pen, and writing poems. No addiction to games on the phone. No social media madness.

I would be the first to acknowledge that technology is marvelous, but it comes at a cost, the cost of our children’s health. But why pay the price? Why raise kids who won’t look up from their phone when you talk to them?

Do you limit your kids’ screen time in your family? How do you do it?

Do share in the comments.

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Obsessivemom March 6, 2018 at 5:19 pm

We have pretty strict rules when it comes to screen time and that works perfectly on school days. My concern is that during holidays it becomes a bit crazy. What you said about setting an example for your child is the single most important factor. Handling the bit about ‘But my friend….’ is also pretty hard. It’s difficult to convince them why we are insisting on those rules when everyone around them seems to not bother.

Aditi March 6, 2018 at 5:28 pm

I think screen time should be limited not just to kids but also adults. I’m at a wedding currently and meeting the fam almost after a year. I told all of them to put away their phones on silent. As a social media enthusiast I understand the importance and relevance but we all need to keep a check and not get hooked onto devices.

Shilpa Gupte March 6, 2018 at 9:08 pm

I am a stickler for such rules, and am always after my nephew to not give the phone much attention, or even the TV. SO, now he uses the phone only to speak with his mum, or check out some study material his mum shares on Whatsapp. His TV time is also limited to an hour a day. At least he follows these rules when he is at my place! I hope he does so at his place, too!

Zainab March 7, 2018 at 9:09 am

Well, I wish I could have waited till they (my kids)were 17. They have a basic smartphone and it was mostly due to the fact that all their classmates had one.
I try to limit the screentime to 1 hour a day. But, during exams it’s not given.
Also, setting an example is really important.

Monika March 7, 2018 at 9:12 am

First I have to limit my online usage only then I can ask my kid to do so …..Let me try …Thanks for the tips

Nabanita Dhar March 7, 2018 at 9:13 am

M watches rhymes on the phone sometimes. Usually, it’s when I’m doing some work and there is no one at home. Or, when we are on the bus and she’s being cranky, even in flights. But yes, I do understand the importance of limiting screen time for kids and hope I’ll be able to do something about it following your tips.

Parul Thakur March 7, 2018 at 9:34 am

All relevant points Vidya and coming from you, I can see how you have set all this with ease. It’s odd but the social media addiction is eating away our personal connections. Sad but a reality that most people don’t want to accept.

Kala Ravi March 7, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Totally agree with all the tips you’ve shared Vidya. The most important of course is practising what you preach. I have set a curfew time for switching off all screens and after that one is free to do anything but stare at the mobile/lappy/TV! I also think it is very important for kids to develop hobbies that do not involve any of these gizmos. Art in any form works best. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!

Rajlakshmi March 7, 2018 at 12:17 pm

My myself find it hard to get rid of this addiction, it must even more difficult to handle kids. I have seen them become extremely cranky and agressive when you take their devices away. So happy that you raised an understanding boy… I have seen parents struggle a lot with these days. I grew up without cable, and a black and white tv. And this is 2000s that I am talking about. My siblings and I tirelessly joke with my parents about their patenting 😅

G Angela March 8, 2018 at 5:03 pm

I am able to do 1, 2, 3 vidya and now my daughter is 16 and in the college, cell is not allowed, since both of us work, she comes home before us, so we like to connect with here when she is at home, to know whether she reached home safe, and had her snacks:) we have to work on no. 4 and 5… even though my daughter loves to read, but prefers to have dinner watching TV… thanks for sharing this post.

Rachna Parmar March 9, 2018 at 7:22 pm

it is tough, Vidya. I have pretty strict rules about screen time at home. They get 1 hour on Saturday and Sunday for their gadget games. I also give them some time daily for some fun browsing. But the struggle may be during school holidays. I am so busy with my work during the day that I can hardly give them company. It is a challenge but we understand the perils of too much screen time for kids.

AuraOfThoughts MeenalSonal March 10, 2018 at 3:57 pm

These tips will surely resolve all electronic gadgets issues.
Switching off Wifi after certain time limit makes us all stay in limit and manage our work.
Even during holidays slots are made to ensure less screen time.

Meenal Sonal

Mayura Amarkant March 11, 2018 at 12:12 am

Brilliant post! Reducing the time spent before the screen is the biggest challenge I face as a mother. Especially because my profession requires me to work in front of a screen all the time. Children always want to copy their parents. Making my children understand and diverting their attention was a huge task. Thank you for writing such an insightful post, I will surely use the tips given here. #BlogchatterSpotlight

Veronica Mitchell March 14, 2018 at 11:04 am

I totally relate to this one. We used to have a TV in our bedroom because my husband and I love watching movies before we head back to sleep. But since we wanted to set a good example, we moved the TV away. Now, instead of watching movies every night as a lullaby, we assigned a Friday night movie night with the whole family!

https://writing-help.org/blog/organizational-diversity-and-discrimination April 14, 2020 at 12:06 pm

It is necessary to deal with children so that they do not spend all their free time behind the screen and know that there are a lot of useful and interesting things around.


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