Hello and Welcome to another OddLearning Post.
Today we want to share some Tips and Insight on how to manage Family screen-time.
In this Era with many technological advances, new generations are drawn and influenced by them at a very early age.
When I was a kid we had one of those big box TVs, I remember I could watch TV every day for a few hours as a kid with supervision of my parents, but now kids go unsupervised when using their tablets and cellphones.
I won’t lie, my son has a tablet, which he can use a few hours some days. Sometimes I love it as it provides educational apps and audio books for him, but I feel nostalgic, as in my childhood I was able to play more outdoors, interact with nature and enjoy more books.
Have you ever heard of the three R’s for managing Screen-time?
Reduce – Replace – Reconnect
I heard of this for the first time in a parenting group, the way they explained it made it easy to remember and now I want to share it with more people, so let me start with:
How do we REDUCE?
As you probably know, research has told us too many times that excessive screen-time use (from any device) affects our mental and physical health, impacting what we do and what we feel, so to reduce it we should;
1 – Track your family’s Screen time.
- Try keeping a Screen-time log, start with a week, then two and then try a month. Once we are using any laptop, TV, tablet or cellphone, we forget how quickly time can go by, we tend to spend more time than we think we will. So for starters track time!
2 – 2hrs Screen-free before bed.
- As mentioned in a previous post, we wrote about what can cause insomnia, using devices before bed was one of them, as it has a very bad impact in your sleeping pattern. It’s recommended 1 to 2 hrs before going to bed to have stopped using any device, as they transmit sensory information that keeps your brain awake up to 2 hrs after you stopped.
- Did you know, many studies associate the color blue to maintain our brain awake? Now let me ask…what color are the logos of the most used apps? Coincidence? Maybe.
3 – Set Screen-time limits.
- It’s good to have a schedule to keep track of how much and when is the use of devices allowed, read how much time it’s recommended depending on your child’s age, and make a plan from there.
- It’s hard to follow such schedules in our busy lives, but try your best to make your family cooperate as well.
4 – Screen-free zones.
- The first place you should have as a screen-free zone should be, the bedrooms. Avoid having devices were your body should be resting and relaxing. If, you and your children have portable devices, make sure to use them in the living room or a designated area, and leave them there. Which leads us to the next tip…
5 – Set a good example.
- When you set a good example by monitoring your own time, it will be easier for the young ones to follow. Make it fair by being equal, this will lead them to respect you and your rules.
6 – Have a Tech-free day.
- After setting Tech-free hours, it’s time to set a day. Maybe when you go on that holiday weekend you have been planning, limit the technology you take. Have fun like people did years ago, letting your eyes capture the memories and actually live the moment.
7 – Talk with your family.
- Make sure to explain why you are making this changes, specially to the young ones that might not see this as reasonable decisions. Tell them the importance of reducing and limiting screen time to protect their health.
How do we REPLACE?
What better way to replace Screen-time than with activities that can be fun for the whole family;
1 – Screen-free activities.
- Books, building toys, art supplies, board games. These are some examples of things that are good to have when your family feels there’s nothing else to do.
2 – Balance Screen-time and Play-time.
- One of your goals should be to balance Screen-time and Play-time. At first, it might be a stressful change, specially if some would rather watch TV, but it’s important balance the time spent. For children under 7 make sure to double the time of active play, it’s for the benefit of their health, so don’t feel bad if they shed some tears.
3 – Replace TV
- Music can be your best friend to reduce Screen-time, I miss the old mp3 players that would not distract you with the music video, you could just enjoy the melodies. So next time you and your family are together, play some music, but connect and do activities together.
4 – When Boredom arrives, embrace it!
- Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing, when we are bored we rely on our imagination, this can help both adults and children develop healthier life skills, such as self-awareness and problem solving.
5 – Read to your child.
- I know, life is hectic, but make it a routine. Read to your children, even if they aren’t paying attention, this can be an opportunity to spend some time enjoying each others company, with the help of books.
6 – Avoid using screen time as a REWARD!
- You might need to focus and you have your child screaming, crying, doing kids stuff, so what do we do? We give any device at hand just so they can give you 5 min to collect your thoughts. I have done it, so I KNOW. Kids are kids, we love them but they can drive us crazy. Try to use positive parenting strategies to teach them to be calm and respectful. Every parent has trouble with this one so don’t feel pressured, we are all learning, right?
How do we RECONNECT?
As humans, we need to interact with others to be healthy, in mind and body. Screen-time can get in the way of this, isolating us and triggering different types of anxiety. Some things I will mention might sound repetitive but bear with me, alright?;
1 – Limit YOUR Screen-time.
- Avoid using your devices in public places (for safety), and during your family time, like dinner time. It might be a small gesture, but the fact that you can turn of your phone, or the TV to sit down and enjoy that moment with your loved ones, let’s them know they come first, that no matter what, they are your priority.
- It’s very bitter for a child to look up to their parents and try to socialize with them, just to be ignored because their attention is on a screen.
- I remember that from my childhood, it still hurts, the fact that I never had and still can’t have a proper conversation with my father.
- So pay attention, if you start now it won’t be too late.
2 – You both need to Socialize.
- It’s important to bond with your child but, you also need to socialize. Check your local programs and find opportunities for your child to socialize with other kids, and for you to talk with other parents going through the same, you might make great friends that can understand you and support you.
3 – Know the locals.
- Not only though programs, but who knows, maybe after walking down your block you will meet your neighbors with children around the same age as yours, or the nice couple with a playful dog that your child can pet (In case you don’t have animals), the store owner with funny jokes.
- We are losing the culture when our neighbors were like family, and it’s sad, but if you think there might be a possibility for you, then do it.
This last 3 are the most important so take notes!:
1 – Play with your child everyday.
- Even if you can only spare 30 min, that can mean the world to them, avoid interruptions by your devices and fully commit to that time playing with your child. Make sure they know and feel they are important to you.
2 – Screen-time can be Family time!
- I know, this might sound contradicting but, you can turn screen time into bonding time, how about you show them your favorite movie? or the TV show you saw as a kid? How about playing video games together? (I do this with my son and we have a blast, most of the time he would rather wait for me so we play together ).
- As long as you balance the healthiest lifestyle you can, screen time doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
3 – Talk
- What can be more important that to talk with your family? With your kids?. We might know them since the moment they were born but, there is so much more going on that we can’t see. Ask them about their day, their goals, their dreams and when you do, pay close attention, as they are opening up to you.
- You want to be a person they can rely on, not fear you or be intimidated by. If, you grew up in a strict environment, then believe me, it’s hard to break habits we unconsciously do. But please remember what I’m about to write, never and I mean NEVER be afraid to admit you screw up, respect your children and if something was your fault APOLOGIZE, make eye contact and admit you were wrong.
- You want them to respect you? Well you need to respect them as well. We were hurt as children when our parents blamed us wrongly didn’t we? When we feel so belittled as children not understanding what is that pain in your gut, and the stiffness from clenching your teeth.
- I’m a bit emotional while writing this, because I have screwed up as well and regret it, I hate myself but, I take pride in the fact that I apologized to my son when I did, he might be 4 but he feels it, and if I hurt him it’s not right to ignore his feelings, he understands it as much as he can for his age.
- So please parents out there reading this, get to know your kids, don’t let a screen be the barrier between you and your children.
This was a long post but I enjoyed writing, and hopefully it will come in handy for you or someone you know.
Give a big hug to your loved ones and tell them how important they are to you 🙂
(My Inspiration to write this post and improve my parenting is my son, life is too short to focus on the negative, there is no day like today to show him how much i love him.)
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