Welcome to Elite Care’s Digital Detox blog series—get ready to put your family’s media consumption under the microscope! Don’t worry, we’re not here to criticize parenting styles, just offering advice and a few valuable resources to help you and your family spend less time glued to devices and more time being active and creative.
One quick note, while researching statistics, anecdotes, and advice columns for this series we stumbled upon an unsettling trend. Many sources were judgmental and negative toward varying parental styles and, in some cases, would even result to name-calling when referencing digital reliant households. While good intentioned, their messages were lost behind criticism. This won’t be the route we take. We understand—we’ve turned on the TV babysitter to get a few chores done around the house or plunked an iPad in Billy’s lap for couple minutes of peace. It’s hard not to—screens are everywhere. TV, Internet, video games, smartphones, and tablets are all competing for your child’s attention—but how much screen-time is too much?
So, without further ado, let’s compare and contrast recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics with a variety of opinions from both ‘mommy-bloggers’ and renowned University research and studies. In the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how much screen time is appropriate for your child, how to hold ‘zone-out’ time in check, and suggestions for alternative activities.
Gauging your family’s media consumption
The first step is to evaluate your family’s media intake. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading health journal and research foundation, 8-18 year olds spend an average of nearly eight hours per day using entertainment media, most of the time media multitasking (e.g. playing with your phone while you watch TV). That figure is up from five years ago when the hour count was hovering around six hours a day. The AAP recommends “Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content.”
The mealtime TV crutch
One of the best places to cut out some screen time is during meals. According to research conducted at the University of Michigan Health System, eating while watching TV has been shown to “hook” kids on TV at a young age. Keeping in mind the stats from AAP above it’s not surprising that almost two-thirds of households’ report that the television is on during meals—which impedes family discussion and an open dialog.
Try to set the example
Children will always gravitate toward the behaviors of their parents. Set the example for your kids and try to limit your own screen time. A good place to start is scheduling viewing times for yourself and your children to avoid having the TV on in the background constantly.
No TV in the bedroom
University of Michigan Health System found that a third of kids age 2-7 have a television in their bedroom, while two thirds of kids eight and up are watching TV in their bedroom. With a TV in your child’s bedroom, you have no way to monitor the amount of viewing or the shows they choose to watch, not to mention having a TV in the bedroom is linked to a worsened performance in school and sleep problems.
Maybe a mantra?
Joshua Becker, husband and father, has created a popular blog that focuses on clearing the clutter from your home and life. He suggests you create a mantra (a repeated sound or phrase considered, by some, to be a catalyst of transformation). While the words in themselves aren’t powerful, the consistent use of them can be. Becker’s “too much television” mantra is: “There’s been too much screen time in this family.” The phrase instantly alerts the kids that TVs and phones go off and it’s time to shift gears.
“But we’re so bored…”
While suggestion options are endless they never seem to come to mind when kids proclaim their eternal boredom. Usually the response involves “go outside” or “read a book”—which rarely motivates action. Younger children thrive on specific, directed tasks and as they grow the suggestions can get more creative and challenging. Want specific suggestions and ideas? Below is a list of fun ideas.
Some specific Ideas
Here’s a list of ideas for games, experiments, and activities that can curb your kid’s screen time:
A blog we published last year: Staying Healthy: Exercise with your kids
A slideshow of some weekend outdoor ideas: 20 Activities for the Weekend
Some good (and mediocre) tips here: 101 fun activities to do with your kid
Here’s are a few helpful Pinterest boards to follow that are jam-packed with helpful tips and ideas: