My daughter used to get around 3 hours of screen time every day. Note that this is a rough estimation because I never used to pay attention to the amount of time she spent in front of the screen. I would let her spend hours watching her favourite shows because it kept her busy, which meant mommy could get on with other stuff. But at the back of my mind, I knew that I wasn’t making the best choice for her.
My turning point happened when her speech therapist told me about the potential consequences of excessive screen use for our little ones. Excessive screen time can impinge on children’s ability to develop optimally. It makes it difficult for them to sleep, and it increases their risk of attention problems, anxiety and depression.
In this blog post, I share with you how I reduced my 4-year old’s screen time. I know that we all have different work schedules, and some of us are away from our kids for most of the day, which makes it challenging to manage their screen time. I’m sharing my experiences, and I hope you can take away some tips to implement in your own life.
If your child is used to spending time in front of the screen, you need to find alternative ways to keep them entertained. I did some research and found some excellent educational board games, and Asante loves them, which is a bonus. Puzzles and Lego are also good options.
I would recommend that you develop a routine, have different activities lined up for different days. If your child spends most of their time with a caregiver, then make sure they are also aware of your intentions to reduce your child’s screen time. Draft an activity plan and go through it with them.
Once they are done with their activities, encourage them to let their imagination run wild. Whether they play in the yard, or you take them to the park. Allow kids to be kids.
Here’s a rough draft of our daily routine.
- 12: 00pm Pick her up from school
- 12:15 – 1:00 pm Run errands with Asante.
- 1:00 – 1:30pm Lunchtime
- 1:00 – 2:30pm Planned activities
- 2:30 – 4:00pm Free Play
- 4:00 – 4:30pm Pick up my son from school with Asante
- 5:00 – 5:15pm Bath time
- 5:30 – 6:30pm Screen time
- 6:30 – 7:00pm Dinner
- 7:15pm Bedtime
I’ve managed to reduce her screen time to 1 hour per day. But I must highlight that I don’t always get it right, but we have more good days than bad days. And I’m pleased with our progress.
Don’t leave the TV on
Last year we decided to cancel our DSTV subscription. That has considerably reduced everybody’s screen time, both kids and adults. I don’t know if you do this, but we would leave the TV on all day. And if the TV is on, of course, your child will be tempted to watch. So keep that TV off as much as possible.
Lead by example
Children would rather copy what we do than what we say. They are always watching us, and that’s why we need to manage our own screen time. I don’t watch TV during the week at all, because the minute I switch it on, Asante will insist on watching her own shows.
Technology is fantastic, and our kids must get exposed to it. But it is our responsibility to set boundaries, so they have the time and freedom to be kids. How have you managed to reduce your little one’s screen time?
Resources: Jama Network
Photography: Elsie B Photography