Screen-Time Detox for the Kids
January 2021 is the perfect time for a screen-time detox. A new year gives us a chance to look ahead, and this month is traditionally when people consider how to bring more health and happiness into their lives. Since many of us are spending more time at home than usual, this is a year when creating a healthy home lifestyle is especially vital.
Families are struggling with an excess use of screens during this pandemic.
Many children are learning online, and we are reaching for screens to connect with friends and family more than ever before. Parents are relying on screen-time in order to carve out time to work at home, prepare meals, and do the many tasks that keep a home functioning - and then our kids want more tech-time for their leisure and entertainment.
It is a wonder that old-fashioned books are still read, that letters are still written and cookies still baked. There are just some things parents are unwilling to give up on. So how do we reduce the digital load in our homes in order to hold on to what matters to us most?
I am a home learning coach and former teacher. I work with families who are teaching their children at home for the first time and need support. And they often share with me that screen-time has become a battleground in their home, one which causes daily conflict between parent and child.
My advice? Start simply by trying to reduce a small amount of excess tech. Even cutting screen-time by 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your family’s lifestyle, leaving more time to read, to chat around the table, to play or create.
I have developed a system of screen-time strategies that allows parents to get more control over the amount of unstructured time their kids spend on devices. These steps are so simple that you can try them right away without any planning or preparation!
1. Replace a session of screen-time with something your child loves doing
This could be banging on an instrument, painting with new watercolors, building a cool model or simply playing a game. The most effective way to limit screen-time is to replace it with something fun. If your child is happily engaged in an alternative activity, it is more likely that they will adjust to this change with less of a fuss.
2. Use screen-free media to enrich the home environment
Our kids love digital entertainment because it involves them in tales of risk and adventure. But well-selected audiobooks can be an effective video alternative, infusing your space with a rich, narrative experience. The right audiobook - narrated by talented performers - can inspire your child to “fall into” the world of the story without passively relying on the flashing lights of a screen.
Pro tip: use bluetooth speakers or other user-friendly, screen-free devices to stream free audiobooks using your library account!
3. Start bedtime routines much earlier than necessary
This strategy works best during the winter months when it is dark and cold outside - so now is the perfect time to give it a try! Once your child is ready for bed, rather than turning out the lights, use the extra time before they are ready to sleep for them to build, create, or read in their room without screens. I like streaming audiobooks at this time as a way to create a cozy atmosphere and ground them in their space with a sense of occasion. Since most kids love delaying bedtime whenever possible, they might enjoy this “bonus” time before the lights go out. This approach achieves two goals at once: kids practice the skills required to enjoy purposeful screen-free time, and parents reduce the amount of total screen-time in the day!
I wish you and your family a healthy and happy start to 2021. Here’s to beginning a restorative new year - by establishing habits and routines that bring joy and togetherness to your everyday life!