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5 Ways To Regain Control Over Screen Time

Saturday, 16 May, 2020

Melanie Hempe

If you weren’t already concerned about screen time as a parent, the quarantine, shelter-in-place mandate most likely will kick your worry into overdrive over how much time kids are in front of their computers and mobile devices. 

Sure, some of it can’t be helped now that kids from grade school through high school must learn remotely. Then, you know they need to have that connection with their friends that they can no longer get from school, neighborhood meet-ups, and recreational activities. 

Out of frustration with trying to now work from home and serve as your kids’ entertainment director and substitute teacher, you may also have given up the battle over screen time to keep the peace. However, before screen time gets out of hand for kids stuck at home, here are some ways that you and your kids can regain control over screen time. 

  1. Understand what excessive screen time can do.

When you are in the midst of screen time, it’s very easy to lose track of how much time you have spent on devices with screens. From binge-watching Netflix to a video game tournament to game apps, adults even know how easy it is to get caught up in the screen versus the time spent there. More importantly, teens and kids may not realize that the excessive time spent in front of a screen can alter their mood and behavior.   

To help the entire family understand the negative impact of too much screen time, there is now a movie that addresses the science behind screen time impact. It will be available on cable, satellite, and digital streaming services on May 26th in the U.S. Entitled “Screened Out,” the movie explains what screen time can do and how we can regain control over how much time we spend in front of devices. Check it out on iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, DirecTV, Dish, and more. Or view it for FREE by reserving your tickets for the online world premiere using code SCREENSTRONG. The online world premiere for the movie is May 20th at 5:30 pm MST. Following the movie premiere, there will be a Q&A with expert Melanie Hempe where you can get any questions about the scientific effects of screen time answered.

  1. Take the ScreenStrong Challenge.

Once you have an idea of what screen time can do, the next step in getting control is to find a motivating way to break a bad habit due to more than two months of quarantine. One idea is to take the ScreenStrong Challenge.

The challenge is a free, week-long break from screens, including video games and smartphones. It may sound impossible and your kids may at first feel like it’s the worst thing ever, but as they separate from dependence on screens, they’ll more than likely discover that it’s not. Your kids can see what it feels like to have time for other things they might enjoy. 

For example, many kids have rediscovered the joys of the outdoors since the quarantine, making chalk art on the sidewalks and riding bikes with their parents through the neighborhood. The weeklong program is a good amount of time to start to undo the bad habit of too much screen time in order to regain control and set limits again. 

As part of the challenge, there is a supportive online community for advice from parents and ScreenStrong Ambassadors. 

  1. Talk about positive individual and family screen time changes. 

Whether you take the challenge or you decide to sit down after watching the movie together, it’s productive to have a discussion with your kids versus just telling them what’s going to happen in terms of screen time use. After all, as an adult stuck in quarantine, you may also be spending an unhealthy amount of time in front of screens. Therefore, talking about it shows your kids that you value their feelings and ideas as well as establishes the screen time changes as a family project. 

Ask kids what they learned from the movie and/or challenge as well as how they felt doing other things away from screens. As a parent, you can also share your thoughts about the subject and acknowledge the challenges of being away from friends, sports, and other activities your kids miss. 

  1. Set limits on devices and time. 

Even though the entire family acknowledges the downside of excessive screen time, the shelter-in-place mandate may continue in some form for months to come. It can become very easy to slip back into those bad habits. 

Limits include the number of devices available during the week and weekend as well as the hours allotted to screen time. It may be good to have less time during the week when kids have online school to complete. Even on weekends, establish a certain timeframe so that you can leave time open to spend as a family doing other things. 

  1. Schedule alternative activities. 

As a family, consider some positive strategies for individual and family screen time. Focus on activities that each family member has shared as something they might want to do or learn about. It might be a family board game night or a life skill like helping with meal preparation or a home improvement project. Create a family book club or exercise class that you can do online together or outdoors.  

Once you decide on alternative activities that everyone can enjoy, create a family calendar that lists all these events. Putting it in writing where everyone can see what’s scheduled may increase the odds of sticking to these screen-free activities.