20 Top Tips on Changing your Child’s Screen-Time Habits

How often do you hear ‘just 5 minutes more, this is my favourite show in the whole world’ or ‘I have to finish this level, pleeaase’, when you ask your child to disengage from their games or TV?

It is said it takes 21 days to change a habit, so if you have had enough of your child being absorbed by a screen of some sort it helps to have a realistic expectation of how long weaning may take.

There are many articles on the good and bad effects of computer games and TV, so I won’t focus on that issue. Moderation in all things helps our children grow into balanced adults and it is up to parents to find the level of moderation that suits their child and families needs. As leaders, being strong in our convictions and values and lovingly, firmly guiding our children in the direction we feel is best for them is very important. When we chop and change our minds this is confusing for our kids and this is when they will act out in ways we would rather they didn’t.

So ‘no’ means ‘no’, is really the best policy. To help our kids understand our actions, a wonderful bonding activity is to sit down together and create new boundaries and limits on why and how ‘screen time’ is changing in your home. Ask for their feedback and constructive input into new guidelines and agreements around how everyone can be happy about new changes. This will empower them and help them take on responsibility for decisions made, Mum and Dad won’t be the ‘bad guys’ any more.

Here are some tips to help this transition happen smoothly:

  1. If we desire our children to change their behaviour then we need to change our attitude and behaviour first. Be prepared to spend more precious time with your kids, let them see what a fun person you can be.
  2. Get down and get stupid more often with your children, let your inner child go crazy, it is great for stress relief.
  3. Create contracts with each child that incorporates time allowance and what type of game or show they are allowed to participate in.
  4. This change is not punishment, so it is vital you share the positive outcomes and alternatives for them when they are not up to their eyeballs in a screen.
  5. List other fun activities that you will do with your children, if you make this about them your success rate will increase.
  6. Computer games and TV can definitely come in handy as a ‘babysitter’, so be aware when you are creating new guidelines you don’t suddenly change the story when it suits you.
  7. Consistency and congruency are very important with kids always. If we don’t walk our talk what sort of role model are we portraying?
  8. I suggest no TV or games while eating, sit around the table as a family and connect with each other. Our family sat at the table every night, except Saturday night was dinner on a tray on the lounge watching something we all enjoyed, a special treat.
  9. Do you have board games gathering dust somewhere, bring them out and play as a family, so many valuable lessons and social skills can be nurtured , especially patience.
  10. Although playing video games can be a learning experience, give your child a variety of entertaining things to learn from, so your child will not be addicted to just one thing
  11. Research shows that TV’s and computers emit blue rays even when turned off, these rays affect our children’s brains and overstimulate, so please take them out of their bedrooms.
  12. Pick games that require the player to come up with strategies and make decisions in a game environment that is more complex than punching, stealing and killing.
  13. Talk to your child thoughtfully about the effects and disadvantages of playing games and or watching TV for more than a hour or two such as: video induced seizures, obesity, postural, skeletal and muscular disorders such as tendonitis, nerve compression and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  14. A study by the Minneapolis based Institute for Media and the Family, suggests that computer games can be addictive for kids and that the kid’s addiction to games increases their depression and anxiety levels. Addicted children also exhibit social phobias. Not surprisingly, kids addicted to video games see their school performance academically and socially suffer.
  15. Kitchen timers for each of your children, monitored by you, are a fun and effective way of helping kids know when their turn is up, or how long they will need to wait for another one.
  16. Look for games that involve multiple players so children are encouraged in group play, sharing, consideration and multi skilling.
  17. Make sure that doing chores and homework are a higher priority than games and TV shows
  18. An alternative option to TV is actually a good computer/video game. According to Queensland University of Technology Games Research and Interaction Design Lab, some games encourage kids to be moderately active and some also exercise kid’s cognitive skills. According to Dr. Penny Sweetser, such games “can improve academic performance, social skills and self esteem”. She recommends, though, letting your child play with parental interaction and supervision.
  19. Many scientists and psychologists find that video games can have many benefits. Actually teaching kid’s high level thinking skills that they will need in the future.
  20. So there are many pros and cons about TV and computer games, I feel it all comes down to moderation and variation. When screen time is fun, educational, challenging and enhances a child’s learning, fantastic. Regulation of screen time and a good mix of old fashioned running around, riding bikes, hunting pirates and laughing a lot with your buddies are all important activities in our children’s lives. So if moving your child off the couch is an issue get a little crazy, have fun, be a great role model and see what happens.
Avatar of Arnaum Walkley

Arnaum has been a Parenting Counsellor for over 25 years, assisting and nurturing parents in developing their own unique parenting skills, and how to develop Conscious Parenting skills. In this time she has been involved in South Australia and other states and communities as an Early Childhood Worker, Breastfeeding Counsellor, Parenting Educator, Public Speaker, Counsellor, and Writer focusing on child development and parenting.

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