How to Keep Screens From Ruining Your Holiday Cheer

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Words by
Jana Dalby

Published on

12.18.2020

The season of giving is upon us. Each holiday season, one of the best gifts to give is simple togetherness. Quality time with family, friends, and other loved ones — even if virtual — is the cornerstone of any holiday. 

As too many families know, technology in general and screens in particular can be a serious barrier to togetherness. With kids out of school and cooped up inside, screen time will be at an all time high. 

So, how can you ensure that your kid isn’t spending all of their time in front of a screen during the holidays? Here are a few things to start with:

1. Make the Dinner Table a No-Phone Zone

One easy way to bring your family closer together this holiday season is by setting boundaries. The dinner table should be a no-phone zone all the time, but this is especially important during the holidays. 

Each family only has so many holidays together. Everyone needs to be fully present in order to enjoy them. Cherishing holiday meals together is one of the best places to start.

Not only do tech-free dinners mean more quality time, but they also have serious health benefits for kids. According to a study done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, kids who eat dinner with their parents five days a week or more are more likely to make healthy food choices and perform better in school. 

2. Play With Your Kids

This one may seem obvious, but it’s important nonetheless. If you’re forbidding technology without making time for your kids, can you really blame them for their boredom? 

Interpersonal interaction is a great substitute for the overstimulation that a screen provides. Plus, it reinforces the idea that reduced screen time is not a punishment. Instead of taking away the screen and leaving your kids bored, reward their sacrifice with quality time.

3. Load Up Your Holiday Break With Activities

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If you’re intentional about how you spend your holiday break, your kids won’t even have time to think about gadgets or screens. This year will likely look different than years past due to COVID-19, but there are still plenty of fun activities that don’t include a screen.

If you choose to stay in, your family can bake Christmas cookies or build a gingerbread house. If you’d rather get out, there are plenty of safe ways to enjoy the holidays. Find a scenic park and bundle up for a family walk, or find a drive-thru holiday light display near you. When you stay busy with fun, festive activities, your kids won’t need a tablet or phone for entertainment.

4. Take Advantage of Your Surroundings

Kids don’t always realize how fun their own backyard is until they check it out themselves. Even though winter temperatures may be approaching, encourage your kids to go outside. 

Help them enjoy all the things you did at their age. Buy them a sled and find a hill nearby to play on when it snows. No matter what the temps are like where you live, being outside is a great distraction from technology. Have the hot cocoa ready for when they’re done playing.

5. Make Screen Time a Family Activity

Screens aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, some bring us together more than they keep us apart. 

Snuggling up in front of the TV and watching Christmas movies can be a great way to spend time together. Instead of allowing your kids to stare at a phone or a tablet all day, allocate screen time to family movie nights. 

Why not make it a tradition? Watch one new classic per week. Your kids will love it!

6. Create a Holiday Schedule

While you may fear resentment from your kids, setting boundaries means you care. Get them right, and your children will thrive. Boundaries, daily routines, and rules help kids feel safe and create healthy routines. 

Carve out times during the day for screen time, such as in the morning after breakfast. Once a few hours pass, they’ll want some time away to play. 

Alternatively, use screen time as a mid-day reward after family time in the morning. Creating a schedule might seem like a bad thing at first, but once you do, you and your kids will be thankful you did it.

7. Set a Good Example

Your behavior is the single greatest influence on the behavior of your child. The trouble is, even parents can’t help but check their phone frequently. From Facebook to texting to checking your work email, there are just as many distractions for adults as there are for kids. 

If you want quality time to be a priority this holiday season, the whole family has to commit to it. Make sure your kids don’t see you on your phone too much lest they think it’s acceptable for them to do the same. 

Although it may seem impossible, limiting screen time or getting rid of it altogether will be the best thing you do for your family this holiday season. Even if you can’t get rid of technology, there are ways to limit exposure to social media and mindless games. All you have to do is commit to them.