Parenting Tools

Top 10 Tips to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

Do screens make you want to scream? Some kids seem downright obsessed with technology; setting limits on TV, computer, and video games can be a constant family struggle.

Parent coach and author Judy Arnall recently sent me her top ten ways to help your child manage screen time. Seems like timely advice with those long summer days just around the corner!

  1. Redirect to other stimulation. Have board games set up, sports equipment ready to go, or recipe ingredients laid out ready for a baking session.
  2. Connect, then direct. Be involved and knowledgeable of where they travel on the Internet and whom they play games with. Take an interest in their on-line gaming and chatting pursuits.
  3. Don’t punish – problem solve! It’s not a battle of you against them. It’s you and your child against the problem. Work the problem out together to everyone’s satisfaction and give your child input into the rules.
  4. Model a balanced life that includes the following: social time, physical activity time, mental-exercise time (games, puzzles, homework, and reading), spiritual time (including volunteering, meditating, unstructured play, and church), family time, work, and hobby time.
  5. Issue time tokens. Laminate time cards that are given out to each child during the week. They can choose when to "spend" their screen time. Perhaps you can suggest that each hour of physical activity will garner a child an extra token of screen time.
  6. Draw up a daily schedule on paper and discuss where screen time fits in with the day’s already scheduled activities.
  7. Contract. Have a family conference and draw up a weekly or monthly agreement that has limits decided by both the parent and child together. Display in a prominent place. Point to it when the complaining occurs. Be sure to include a date when the contract is up for renewal.
  8. Change the environment. Sometimes, it’s easier to change the setting then to change the other person. Move the computer and gaming systems into the main family area. Having one unit for the children to share means more fighting over screen time, but can also mean more time spent in learning the valuable skill of negotiating and less individual screen time.
  9. Teach your child the fine art of haggling! "Hey, Eric, Wow, you made another level! Good for you! Now, I need you to do the dishes. What time would you like to get at them?" Giving choices to your child makes it easier for them to abide by their agreements.
  10. Keep to routines. If children always know that daily meals, homework and chores need to be done before the fun starts, then they are less likely to argue with "what’s always been the rule."

Judy Arnall, is a speaker, mother of five "gamer" children, and author of Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for Raising Caring, Responsible Children Without Time-Out, Spanking, Punishment or Bribery.
(Professional Parenting Canada 2007)

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