Parents must manage and monitor our children’s screen and TV time. It is an undeniable fact that screens are everywhere. We have multiple televisions, phones and tablets in our homes. Even when we are out we see screens at restaurants, the mall, barbershops and beauty salons. How do we as parents make sure that our children are viewing appropriate shows and games for their age. In a world where screens are everywhere how do we make sure that we are not over exposing our children to too much screen time?
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) says no more than two hours of TV a day for children over the age of two. The two hours include screen time, movie watching time and TV time. Here are a few tips on how to ensure your child stays under this two hour mark.
Take the TV out of your child’s room
If your child has a TV in their room take the TV out. Children who have TVs in their room are more likely to be inactive during the day, and unable to focus in school. They like to sit and watch TV and not go outside and play, or engage in imaginative play. They become active at night from staying up and watching TV. Staying up at night makes your child tired during the school day and unable to pay attention. If your child is used to watching TV in their room taking the TV out will reduce the amount of time they watch TV on a daily basis.
How to cut TV and screen time
Begin to reduce the amount of TV watched over time. If your children begin watching TV or having screen time as soon as they come home from bedtime, begin by cutting 1 hour of TV/screen time a day. If the TV is on in the background and no one is watching it, turn it off to reduce TV time. Every day cut TV time by 1 hour until your children are watching 2 hours or less of TV daily.
Create a monitoring system for how much TV your child can watch a day. The AAP states that children should only be exposed to less than 2 hours of TV, screen time, video, movie watching time a day. Tell your children how much time they have for screen time a day and then monitor the time. We use a timer that have goes off when Jay has 10 minutes left so he knows that his time is coming to an end. We also use timers on our iPads too. When the timer goes off he know that he needs to turn off the iPad and choose something that is not technology based.You can also have children pay to watch. If they are earning their TV time then they have to cash in their TV tokens or time to watch TV.
Let your child earn their TV time. TV is a privilege not a right. We have used this as an incentive for good behavior at school and home, and for completing chores. For every good day, Jay earns 1 hour of TV/screen/movie time. When he has a bad day he loses 1 hour of TV/screen/movie time. And if he has a day that maybe started bad but he did better at the end of the day then he does not earn any time. On Friday he gets to use his earned time to watch TV/movies or have screen time. So the most he can earn for the weekend is 5 hours. During the week he does not watch TV. Sometimes he will have some screen time time like when he reads a book online or play an app, but it is always educational. We have also notices that since the TV is not always on he sometimes forgets when he has a TV day. On most Fridays he would rather come home and draw pictures, or play then watch TV.
Watch how much time you spend on your device and show restraint. As the parent we must set the example for how we use screen time. If we are constantly glued to our phones sending texts, or checking Facebook or looking at boards on Pinterest, then how can we tell our children to put down their devices and focus. At least while the children are awake show restraint.
Create screen free zones. Screen free zones are places where there should not be any type of TV or tablet around. Places like the dinner table, your child’s room, the bathroom, the kitchen. These are areas where you are either by yourself or gathering as a family to spend time together, talk and interact. Interactions and conversations happen best when everyone is invested in what is happening and not on their phone/tablet. As a way to ensure that everyone is technology free in the screen free zones, place everyone’s piece(s) of technology in a drawer, basket or box away from the table, turned on silent. You can even decorate the box with your children so they can become part of implementing the tech free zone.
Advocate for activities and games during normal TV time as an alternative to watching TV. Instead of watching TV after dinner play a board game or family game, go for a walk, have a family dance party, karaoke, go outside and play. Television should not be your family’s only way of spending time together. On Fridays we have a family dance party and play music or watch Kid’s Zumba and learn a new dance. Search the web for fun games and activities that you can do as a family.
Only watch TV during the weekends. This is how we monitor our children’s TV time. After the children go to sleep the adults do watch TV. But during the day Monday through Thursday the TV does not come on. We did allow Jay some TV time during the week awhile ago, and one week we decided that TV time should only take place on the weekends. We did not gradually cut down the amount of time he watched everyday, we just told him from this day forth only TV on the weekends and you have to earn your TV time. He did ask constantly when he could watch TV and we used the behavior board to remind him. We highlighted the days that he could watch TV. Now he understands when he can watch and we do not have to remind him of the days.
Cut the cable bill. I know this is going to sound crazy, but we do not have cable, dish, satellite, nothing. We have WiFi and Apple TV. And you know what?, besides saving a couple of hundred a month, it has decreased our TV watching (we do subscribe to some TV apps). We no longer turn on the TV and channel surf to determine there is nothing on TV, we do not turn on the TV just to have it on. We have to find shows that we want to watch, which means we are purposeful with our TV watching, and so is our son. When he says he wants to watch something we can read reviews and check ratings. We know what we are watching, and we do not have to watch commercials that are trying to sell him sugar and more toys. I stated in my last post http://www.3jacksandaqueen.com/kids-watching-much-tv-good-bad-tv/ that if you are watching TV then skip the commericials, they are aimed at children to sell them unhealthy foods.
Pay attention to the shows/movies ratings and try to watch the movies before your child does or watch with them. Not everything is appropriate for children even when the listing says it is. One of my first years teaching I overheard a student singing the song from a cartoon that came on late at night. This cartoon was for adults. I asked him when he watched the show and he told me he watched it at night on the TV in his room. I spoke with his mother and told her about the cartoon and that was not appropriate for children (he was 4). Needless to say the next day she told me thank you and that he was not allowed to watch that particular show anymore and she had removed the TV from his room. Even if its a cartoon that doesn’t mean your child should watch it.
Monitor video sharing websites. Even with filters and child locks Jay managed to find some videos that were not children appropriate. From personal experience sometimes that childrens’ train video is not about trains and is something that your child should not be watching.
Watch TV with your child. This will increase the education value and make sure that what they are watching is child appropriate
Create a TV viewing schedule that includes approved TV shows and what times you can watch. If your children are allowed to watch during the day make sure they know what they can watch and for how long, especially with older children. Younger children do not have concepts of time so you can explain to them that they can watch 2 TV shows, instead of saying you can watch 1 hour. You can also have your children pay for their TV time. If your children are earning TV time they can use their time earned or tokens (what ever system you have implemented) to pay for the time they watch TV or use screen time. When they use their time then there is no more TV/screen time.