To reduce your child’s computer or TV time, firstly help your child understand why it’s important to limit screen time. Screens are addictive. Like a plug in drug. It’s really hard for children – and even adults – to turn off the TV, computer or mobile phone and do something else.
Plus excessive screen time can cause:
- Back and neck problems
- Reduced fitness
- Poorer social skills affecting friendships and chances of divorce in the future.
- Physical changes in the brain leading to poorer thinking abilities, decision making and self-control
- Sleep deprivation
- Mood swings
- Behaviour problems
- Difficulty focussing at school, causing lower grades in exams
- And future heart problems and diabetes.
Watching TV, computer time and social networking are a part of childhood, and stopping it altogether would make your child feel different to the children around them. So it’s important to help them to limit their own screen use, and do lots of other things in the evenings, weekends and holidays.
Secondly, involve your child in creating the rules around screen time.
Decide, as parents, a sensible limit and stick to it. My suggestion would be an hour a day, maximum, apart from an occasional movie. Then sit down with your child, explain WHY you want to introduce some new rules, and discuss them with your child. Get your child to agree what the limit should be. And the consequences if the rules are broken – or if there’s a big fuss turning it off – perhaps no screen time the following day. Ask your child why it’s good to have a limit.
Talk about how addictive screens are, and how you understand it’s hard to turn it off and do something else. Ask what programmes they love to watch. Or computer games they enjoy. And what else they want to do. And agree what time each day they can do that.
If your child doesn’t agree – you’re the parent. You can still set rules that your child doesn’t like. But when your child is on board, it makes it much easier to get them to follow the rules.
Finally enforce the rules consistently.
Use kitchen timers or alarms on your mobile to time their TV and computer use. Be really firm that the rules are followed. Don’t allow mobiles or TV at the table for mealtimes. And when they get a mobile phone, insist It’s left charging downstairs when they go up to bed, or there’s no screen time the following day.
Start off being really firm, and negotiate one-off changes to the rules if you need to. And remember to set a good example yourself.
So the 3 tips to help reduce TV or computer time are:
- Help your child understand why it’s important to limit screen time.
- Involve your child in creating the rules around screen time.
- And enforce the rules consistently.
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