| Screentime

How to limit screen time: 6 simple tips

| 29 Jul 2023

For kids, to spend the whole day watching a TV series, texting or playing games is no problem at all. Why do kids find it relaxing to spend time online? And how can parents limit screen time as smoothly as possible? Here are some useful tips.

It may be a great way to keep your children busy, but many parents feel bad when their children spend too much time in front of the screen. Especially when they remember their own childhoods and how they would spend time without any digital devices. However, times have changed and technology affects most parts of our lives, including free time and leisure. Especially during difficult times, kids find it relaxing to spend time with their favourite online activities. Why? Here’s an explanation by child psychologist PhD. Jarmila Tomková.

Escaping stress and anxieties

Not only adults, but also children experience fear and stress. It is crucial for them not to suppress these feelings; otherwise such tensions can quickly turn into nervousness, hot temper, aggression or even depression. Behavioural and physiological problems can also appear, including insomnia, headaches, change in appetite, and even addiction. It is even more difficult for children than for adults to understand and manage their feelings. They subconsciously absorb the tensions of their parents and the family atmosphere, and are usually quite sensitive to the "stress in the air".

Children try to develop their own strategies to “switch off” these challenging feelings. They often cry more than usual or need more attention, and fights between siblings occur with increasing regularity. Teenagers tend to isolate themselves and spend more time hanging out online. Trying to forget their powerlessness, they search for groups where they feel competent. And younger kids are especially prone to escape from reality via stories, imagination, role-play and fun in general. This is why during difficult times video games and digital stimuli are particularly attractive to children.

How can parents bring their children back into life offline after they increasingly, and mostly when in crisis, prefer online activities to those in the “real world”? How can parents offer relief from stress and anxiety in the offline world? By being a good digital media manager.

6 tips to limit screen time

1. Bet on well-structured days
Schedule morning responsibilities before lunch, then TV from noon to 2PM, a walk in the nature afterwards, time for having fun online between 7PM and 8PM. Do it for both kids and parents. If you set up an effective daily routine maintained by the whole family, you provide a good example for your children. The plan will differ from family to family, but it’s certainly worth having one in place.

Also, write down all the rules and give them a name – for example, "Our Digital Agreement" or “Family Media Agreement.” Then print the family rules for digital media consumption and hang them where every family member can read them. Such transparency will tighten your family relationships and motivate everyone to follow the rules.

2. Keep calm, being online doesn’t mean being addicted
Just because your child is spending more time with digital media, doesn't mean they're addicted. It has been proven that screen time is not significantly related to online addiction, particularly for children who have enough personal contacts, interactions with their family and friends. Before you panic, be open about your concern, discuss with your children what they're doing online, and set boundaries. Importantly, explain to them why you do so.

3. Help your children deal with their emotions 
Children find it difficult to express their feelings, and often need the support of adults to do so. Talk about your own emotions, but also about the experiences of people, including other kids around you. When it comes to younger children, it can help to tell stories about animals overcoming challenges, and use this as a metaphor to real life. Don't forget that such stories should have a happy ending. Also, articulate the steps that the characters had to take so that the story could end up well. For example, “the Hippo got better when he told Hippo mommy about his stomach shaking, because sharing his feelings calmed him down, and his tummy was calmer too. It was not jumpy or shaky anymore and the little Hippo got his appetite back.” With stories like this, you increase the chance that your children will behave similarly should they encounter a comparable situation.

How to get the best out of YouTube: Find out more.

4. Use the help of technology
Not only organizational measures, but also technology can help you limit screen time effectively. You could use a parental control app to keep your offspring safe online. With it, you can limit time spent online and gaming, and block websites with inappropriate content. It is important to let your children know about the controls, to explain why you decided to use this solution and to agree on the rules together. This will increase the chance that your child will accept the rules.

5. Explore apps and games together 
These days, kids are sometimes much better than their parents at using digital devices. But that doesn't mean they know how to use them responsibly. Children of all ages need to learn to discern content that is fun, meaningful and stimulates creativity. For example, while you explore games and apps together, you can talk about the risks of being online, and how to use technology safely and responsibly. As an extra bonus, you will also get to know your children’s favourite online media.

6. Find the right balance together 
It is crucial for children and parents to spend time offline. As a parent, you are the role model. It's important to schedule screen-free time every day. A walk in nature, cooking a delicious meal together or doing sports, arts and crafts, dancing or painting can be great way to show that fun waits in the world offline.

Looking for more tips how to manage screen time? Find them here.


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