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Reducing screen time tips

This is part of a talk I am giving in a school this week.... and the scary bit with lots of statistics about the over-use of electronics and its influence on brains and behavior I will spare you....but practically.....

  • Ensure parents have screen-free times with children

  • Discuss the need for face-to-face interaction and make sure family-friendly dialogues are ongoing – by rating individual/collective use of electronics and steering a path between what is wanted and what is useful

  • Keep log books or small charts to record screen time honestly and openly and check in once a week/month to see if this is increasing or decreasing and how it is being managed

  • Honor one another’s screen time with good grace, limits to interruptions and strong clear boundaries about ‘coming off’ times

  • Notice often and with approval, when children use screen times responsibility, giving random (cumulative) bonus vouchers occasionally for thoughtful behavior, with guidelines as to when they can be used – eg ‘well done,you just earnt 15 minutes extra which you can add to your weekend screen-time’

  • Don’t use threats, don’t take screen time away as an easy consequence to other irresponsible behavior that should merit more considerate consequences related to THAT mid-demeanour

  • Ensure good play planning to counter balance over reliance on electronics – make creating new games and finding new activities something that an ‘earn’ bonus screen time, so everyone gets involved searching websites, books and asking friends about a host of creative ways to pass the time

  • Create posters and card index to build a variety of games kids can play ‘alone’ and ‘with another’ and have boxes of materials for ‘surprise’ non-screen time hours with entertaining projects.

  • Use visual diaries, with three colours to denote ‘work’, ‘life’ and ‘play’ so that children understand that delaying and detouring from work-tasks eats into play time (it can be useful to have some non-plug-in play times designated too)

  • Plan how a child might move from screen time back to ‘boring’ life – and offer a range of ways to bridge back to real world – with anger and allowed venting, with limited complaining, with a smile, remembering gracious exits earn bonus time, planning the next activity, having a hug, talking about the game/show, doing something silly, etc.

  • Talk about inner strengths and the attributes that help get jobs done or enable kids to move from what they love to what is less enjoyable – such as patient, courage, cooperation, etc and demonstrate those as parents when mistakes are made and upsets around ‘switch off’ time occur.

  • Plan ahead – so that adults and children jointly construct plans for moving in and out of the electronic world – ensuring that they earn the right to ‘plug in’ because they have worked/waited/usefully used time ‘between’ and then that they have a clear, as much as possible – agreed, plan for how long they will use the electronics and HOW TO come off – not HOW WELL!!

  • Be there at ‘time up’ time. Help children move from the intensity of the screen into the ‘nothingness’ of life (as they see it) by spending a few minutes with sympathy, or interest, or a small activity, or a shared conversation, or a neutral response to their frustrations

  • When kids cooperate –talk about why and how that happened, their motivations and the sense of success this creates – expand all that they do right, to build a secure sense of this being do-able again.

  • When kids are unable to cooperate keep penalties small and well policed – ie not emotionally but practically…so that they lose small privileges for a limited amount of time with a degree of empathy – remember they are still learning and need lots of opportunities to try again

  • If electronics become monopolizing take a cold-turkey time Even though it is hard, it is necessary for them to see that this is a ‘cut-off’ and that a re-start will mean more negotiation and improved planning.

  • Maintain relationship as much as manage rules!! Be supportive of their need to find ‘easy’ play – this is their world, their century and we must work WITH what they experience – we can’t turn the clock back

  • Ultimate struggle means big measures must be brought in –Talk to your internet service provider about ‘timing’ cut offs for internet in your home, turn the power off at the source, put parental monitors in place, install a camera…do what you have to to maintain calm and watchful guidance – but don’t battle this. Be the big people, be kind and simply hold the space. GOOD LUCK!

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