Happy New Year! January is a time when many will rededicate themselves to important goals. Some may join a gym, get help with money management, or start a diet. We thought we would capitalize on your momentum and bring some food for thought: How much time is your family spending in front of a screen each day? Do you have the nagging feeling that it is too much or more than you would like? Whether this has been on your radar or not, it's absolutely worth spending a few moments taking inventory of your family's habits. If you decide there may be a problem, we have some ideas for that too!
When assessing your family's screen use, include all the screens- TV, phone, iPad, computer etc. When put that way . . .it can add up fast! While you may be tempted to look only at your children's screen usage, we encourage you to take into account the adults in the house as well (as modeling is the number one way we learn). Beyond counting up the number of hours, consider this:
Are screens being engaged with during family meals? (example: TV on or phones on the table)
How many activities do you do as a family where screens are not present?
Do your children have unlimited access to a screen? Do they have a screen in their room?
Does your family use screens less than an hour before bed?
And here's a really important one. . .How do your children respond if you limit their screen time? Do you even dare? Do you get a super grouch or even some behavior problems?
If you didn't like some of your answers here then it is time to think about limiting screen usage. Like all behavioral change, it will be hard work but it is absolutely possible! Here are some of our ideas on how to make your family less screen dependent in 2017:
Try a screen detox. Some do this by going cold turkey, some begin to taper slowly and others choose to experiment with no screen days of the week (often Saturday or Sunday). It depends on what your goals are for your family. It takes 4-6 weeks of greatly reduced screen time to see improvements in behavioral issues, in those cases you may want to bring in a professional to help you trouble shoot and offer support.
Implement some common sense screen rules for your home. Limit the amount of screen time each day (to what you are comfortable with based upon your child's age) and help your children prioritize what they want to use their time for. Take screens out of the bedroom at night, charge all screens in the kitchen. Stop using screens 2 hours before bedtime so brains can let bodies wind down. Don't allow screens during meals, while family members are talking to one another or doing an activity together. Encourage more outside time and face to face friend time (remember that if your children are using screens they will need help thinking of ways to replace this time at first).
For more ideas on managing screen time, and media in general, check out the Common Sense Media website. If you are ready to set up a behavior plan for a child you think may be technology dependent, Dr. Victoria Dunckley wrote Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills. And if you are looking for more information on the effects of screen time on your child, Nicholas Kardaras has the well-written and easy to follow Glow Kids.