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How to Power Down: Tips to Manage Device Time for Kids

Kids on Devices

Your older kids have worked hard all day at school and are begging for some time to relax and go on their phones.

You’re a busy parent and could really use those 20 minutes while your toddler watches Daniel Tiger to do the dishes and throw a load of laundry in.

And you’re conflicted.

You’ve heard that you should limit screen time. But when it’s time to say “no” or shut down the devices, it can feel like a battle.
At the same time, some parents also feel like their kids deserve a break. Some of those shows and games actually seem pretty educational, after all.

So, what’s a parent to do? It’s no wonder why screen time has been named as the top source of mom guilt.

But having a balance is possible. By implementing some simple tips, you can help get a handle on device time for your kids!

Why it’s Important

Before we get into the best ways to manage screen time at home, let’s talk about what the latest guidelines are.

When it comes to screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends:

Ages 0-18 or 24 months: No screen time at all

Ages 2-5: 1 hour or less per day

Ages 5-17: 2 hours or less per day

In reality, the average 8-10 year old child in the U.S. is exposed to 6 hours of screen time per day, according to the CDC.

The AAP has those guidelines because of some negative things screen time has been linked to, such as:
  • Obesity
  • Mental health issues (such as depression and anxiety)
  • Reduced number of hours of sleep per night
  • Language and social skills delays
  • Attention difficulties
  • Reduced time engaged in activities that promote learning
Now, how do you limit that device time in your household?

#1: Set Limits, and Stay Consistent

Start by establishing some ground rules that you and your children can be accountable for following.
How much time per day are you okay with your child being exposed to TV, tablets, etc.? Set realistic limits, and talk to your child about it.
Many children thrive off of routine and being aware of expectations. Sticking with the daily time limits that you’ve outlined for the household can help eliminate some of that resistance from your child when it’s time for them to power down devices.

#2: Use Apps & Controls

Take advantage of controls on your child’s devices to automatically set timers and limits on screen time.

For example, Apple’s Family Sharing plan allows parents to set permissions remotely with Screen Time. In Screen Time controls, you can set limits for managing device time on an iPad or iPhone.

Most other device companies offer similar control options, or you can download an app for this purpose. Most will give your child a 5 minute warning before time’s up.
For TV time, consider setting a timer on your phone or Alexa to limit time spent watching.

#3: Schedule Screen-Free Time

In addition to setting limits on how much screen time is allowed at home, outline some boundaries on when and where this time can take place.

Some parents might choose to say device time is okay after getting home from school. Or, after homework is completed. But not during dinner time, before school, or right before bedtime.

The Mayo Clinic also recommends that parents consider keeping certain rooms in the house screen-free. For example, no TV’s in bedrooms or charging devices outside of your child’s bedroom at night.

#4: Look at Quality

Manage the type of device time for your kids. Studies have shown that there is a difference in the quality of the screen time children are exposed to.

Research shows that young children benefit more from slow-paced, “thoughtfully designed” media.

#5: Join In

That’s right. One way to manage the quality of your child’s time spent watching television is actually to watch with them!

According to the American Psychological Association, toddlers and preschoolers can benefit from “co-viewing” media with parents. Even if just for one episode, sit and watch with your child. You can make comments and talk about the show, helping your child apply the content to daily life.

#6: Make Engaging Activities Readily Available

Kids might turn to technology when boredom kicks in. To avoid this, give your child direction by encouraging them to participate in some other fun activities.

Getting outside to play, take a walk, or practice a sport is a great way to boost both mental and physical health!

Help your child develop a hobby that he or she can engage in at home. This can improve their self-confidence and keep their focus off of time on devices.

#7: Lead by Example

Are you constantly checking your phone? Do you keep it out at dinnertime and throughout your time at home with your kids?

Even young kids can pick up on when, where, and how often you use digital technology.

Be a good role model by modeling healthy, productive screen time. This might be time that you use technology in helpful ways. For example, tracking your fitness or watching a YouTube video to learn a new skill.

Set a good example for being present during family time. Set your phone in another room and try to limit interruptions during conversations or activities with checking texts and social media.

Show your kids how you spend time relaxing by engaging in other activities, like reading a book or doing yoga. Participate in outdoor activities with them, such as bike rides or dog walks.

Managing device time in these ways can provide positive benefits to your whole family! .

Additional Resources

Managing device time for kids can be a difficult task. But it’s well worth it because too much screen time can affect language, cognitive, and social skills.
If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language, fine motor, or gross motor skills, he or she may benefit from specialized services from a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist. An initial evaluation can help determine what difficulties your child is having. Ongoing individualized therapy can include techniques and activities to help improve these areas.

TherapyWorks offers speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy both in person (in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio) and through teletherapy (nationwide). If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

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