While there’s always the argument for a totally screen-free childhood, it’s not always conducive to modern life and education. When used in moderations, iPads, computers, and even television can be great tools for learning, entertainment, and development.
For whatever reason–a sick day, a vacation, even just some personal space–there may come a time where you find your schedule inundated with screen use, however. A mom can always tell when that “zombie” look glazes over her child’s eyes, screaming, “Too much screen time!”
When a detox is in order, here are five tips to keep in mind, to keep the peace.
1. Be explanatory. Remember, kids are kids. They watched all the TV because they were allowed to, and they don’t understand how it affects them. There will probably be some retaliation as you cut back on the screens. Mostly, kids just want explanations, and this is a good chance to discuss the “why”. Talk about mental health and the science behind screens. Allow them to invest in the detox.
2. Be creative. When your kids are zoning out in front of the TV, they’re not using their imaginations. But guess what? Neither are you! You’ve not had to find answers to the cries of “I’m bored!” It’s time for all of you to jump-start your minds and come up with some creative projects. Roll out some butcher paper and get messy with water colors. Make some homemade play-doh. Set up a stage and act out a favorite story.
3. Be scarce. Follow-up to the imagination usage: Get your kid started, then step out of the picture. You’ll need to feed them the ideas, but they’ll need space to expand on the idea. Sometimes a little “forced” play and practice is all a kid needs to remember how to be a kid. But make it encouraging. Say, “You can do this,” or “You can figure it out.” Ask the questions that rev up their minds and keep them rolling.
4. Be active. Too much screen time, and minds aren’t the only thing that go sluggish. Your body will be begging to stay lazy–and so will your kids’. Get moving and get outside if you’re feeling a little slothlike. Take a walk around the block, run to the nearest playground, or even take your paint set outside instead!
5. Be structured. Once you get started down the path of [screen] righteousness again, set a plan to stay there. Kids function well within boundaries; and if you have rules in place, it’s easier to respond calmly to whiny requests for more TV. For example, tell your child they’re only allowed to watch Sesame Street in the morning; or maybe you’d rather pick a day for a “movie party” and create a schedule for iPad usage. Whatever works for your needs and routines, make sure it’s clear for both you and your children.
How do you notice when your child has had too much screen time? What do you do to detox?