Nowadays, screen time is at an all time high. Everywhere you go, you see people on their phones, tablets, and computers. Screens are everywhere! Not just cell phones, tablets, or your home TVs – but in restaurants, at gas pumps, even the menu sign at Dunkin Donuts is a screen with rotating images!
Screen Time with Kids: Expectation Vs. Reality
My husband and I decided that screen time wasn’t something we wanted to even deal with, so when my oldest was a baby, we came up with a plan. The TV was off when he was awake, and we used our phones as little as possible. People would talk with us in line at stores and bring attention to the Sponge Bob stickers, or Disney note pad. I would follow his blank stares up with a, “we don’t watch TV at our house.” We were so good with this for the first year-and-a-half of his life.
Fast forward almost three years (and another child) later, and I found myself in the middle of a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse marathon, his “phone” (an old IPOD) next to him on the couch, and his tablet charging on the shelf behind him. I had to stop and think, “How did this happen? What can be done to change this?”
The answer was easy: life happened! A new baby was brought home, it was a cold end to the winter, and dad was working more. It became much easier to say, “yeah, you can watch another!” instead of directing him to a hands-on activity.
Now, the challenging part: how do we stop this pattern from occuring? My son's reasoning ability is still developing, so I had to come up with a game plan to gradually reduce his screen time.
How I Cut Down On Screen Time
1. No more auto stream. My son LOVES Mickey Mouse. My in-laws live in Orlando, so we have been to Disney a few times already. During those trips, Mickey became a part of him. Instead of completely pulling the plug on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, I opted to use my cable provider's on demand services. There are usually four or five episodes to choose from, and to play them, you must choose each one individually. When one is over, the TV is turned off, no questions asked.
2. Retrain them on how to play with toys. I work for a toy subscription company, so I am always bringing toys home for my son to use, however, he somewhat forgot how to play with open ended toys over time. In my quest for less screen time, I opted to use the Upper Case Letter Puzzle by Hape (I have since fallen in love with this toy, check out my post about it!). Using this toy to retrain him on how to explore the simple and build on it with his own creativity involved a lot of one on one time, but in the end, it was so worth it.
3. Lead by example. I had to put the phone down myself to show my son that fun can be had without a screen. We sing and dance to the Beatles in the kitchen, we play the newest Haba board game in the living room, and paint and color in the play room!
Some days are easier than others to go without the TV, but I have already seen a huge change, and I hope we can continue on a path toward no screen time.
What are some ways that you like to reduce your child's screen time? Share them in the comments!