How to help cut down your child's screen time following lockdown

Lockdown was challenging for everyone – but particularly parents. 

There was homeschooling to juggle alongside working-from-home schedules – not to mention keeping little ones entertained with limited activities. 

In many ways phones and tablets were a saviour during this difficult time – as they offered a simple solution to settle kids and ease boredom.

So it makes sense that screen time went up for children during this period – just like it did for adults.

Recent research from children’s audio system Tonies found that children have been spending, on average, three hours and 53 minutes a day on devices during the pandemic – with more than a third going over five hours a day.

While there’s no doubt some parents found this screen time a necessity – not only for their kids but to help with their own routines as well – as restrictions start to ease, it’s a good idea to think about how these digital habits can be scaled back.

Especially considering the ways screen time can affect both our physical and mental health.

If you’re a parent looking to reduce your child’s screen time now life is resuming and things are opening up, experts have offered some helpful tips on simple ways this can be achieved. 

Agree on set times

Nadine Shenton, children’s confidence coach and founder of confidenceinkids.co.uk, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘One of the simplest things to do is to agree on times that your child can be on a screen.  

‘For example, for a short time when they get home from school or after they’ve done all their homework. And make sure they know that they need to choose between screens – TV, tablet or smartphone.’

And be consistent with these times, too.

Lucy Shrimpton, parenting expert and founder of The Sleep Nanny, says: ‘Much like I teach with sleep, it’s sticking to your parameters. So, not saying, “No, no, no, oh go on then” because they just learn that you will cave.

‘It’s about being really clear with your rules and letting your child know that you mean it.

‘By being consistent, this is the fairest thing you can do: they’ll actually trust you and can count on you more as they can rely on you to mean what you say.’

Reinvest their efforts

It’s likely that your child is passionate about a non-digital activity – be it drawing, dancing, swimming or board games.

So it can be a good idea to encourage them to swap their screen time for something else that’s just as appealing. 

Nadine adds: ‘It takes effort but empower your children to focus on other hobbies and interests by encouraging what they’re good at. 

‘It’s time for them to reinvest and put effort into themselves and the things they love. Whether that’s drama, football or art. Be encouraging and positive – this will also help boost their confidence levels too.’

Nadine stresses that children are out of practice – so advises that parents help their children feel more confident about doing these things again.

She adds: ‘It’s up to the adults to encourage them back into pre-lockdown activities.’

Be present 

Rather than hoping that kids will ditch the screens and entertain themselves, experts suggest using the time to connect and be present with them.

Nadine adds: ‘One big area parents can help is to spend valued time one-on-one with their children so that they know they’re being heard. 

‘Screens are an easy option when everyone is too busy.’

Think about your own behaviour 

Lucy stresses that it’s vital to model what you want your kids to see – AKA by cutting down your own screen time.

She adds: ‘Adults need to appreciate that children copy their parents so look at your own screen behaviour. Are you constantly on your screen or your phone?

‘I know it’s difficult for parents, especially while working from home, when children are seeing their parents on screens more. But model what you want to see.’

Kids tend to mirror what adults do, so if you’re on your phone for hours yourself – they are unlikely to see the issue when they do the same.

Be proactive, not passive  

Lucy stresses it’s crucial to have a hands-on approach, in order to break these bad habits.

This is particularly important if children are a bit older and more independent.

She explains: ‘Parenting needs to be proactive and not passive.

‘Little ones are using screens very young these days and they are very addictive. But with some older school aged children, you could become passive because they are so independent, you might just expect them to follow your rules. 

‘But if you’re distracted by cooking dinner or finishing off work, they will drift off and go from one device to another so you need to be proactive.’

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