8 Effective Ways to Reduce Your Child's Screen Time (and Why It Matters)

Sep 01, 2023
8 Effective Ways to Reduce Your Child's Screen Time (and Why It Matters)
A growing challenge since the arrival of television is the amount of screen time in a child’s life. Video games and smartphones push the trend into overdrive. As a parent, it’s important for you to take charge of your child’s screen time.

For parents who grew up in the television age, there’s something about the rise in screen time that’s both comforting and concerning. Remembering the days when their own parents discouraged idle time watching TV, it’s tempting to permit screen freedom for their children. 

Yet, the dominance of visual media in today’s society is overwhelmingly vast. It’s no longer a matter of Saturday morning cartoons; it’s a 24/7 barrage through computer monitors, tablets, gaming devices, and smartphones as well as TV. Creative, unstructured free play is a vanishing activity in the onslaught of digital content. 

At Abdow Friendship Pediatrics in Rockville, Maryland, our team shares your concern about the dominance of screen-based content in American children’s lives. Left unchecked, it can lead to a sedentary lifestyle that encourages childhood obesity while also introducing problems with concentration and classroom focus. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time daily. Here are eight effective ways to reduce your child’s screen time. 

1. Set screen time limits

Make it clear how much screen time is allowed as well as define what precisely is screen time. It should include television (broadcast, streaming, or DVD sources), video games, smartphone use, tablets, and computers. Note that school use of these devices should remain separate from their limits. 

2. Relate screen use to physical activity

Try to maintain a one-to-one or two-to-one ratio between screen time and physical activity. That could be an hour of sports, exercise, or simply playing outdoors, as long as it’s activity of at least moderate intensity. 

3. Make bedrooms screen-free zones

Bedroom televisions encourage isolation and idle time. It’s also more difficult to monitor screen time behind closed doors. 

4. Banish digital screens during meals

Preserve the atmosphere of family interaction at the dining table by excluding smartphones and tablets. Kill the TV going in the background too. Families who eat together tend to eat more nutritiously than those with staggered schedules. 

5. Provide alternatives

Whether it’s trips to the park, participation in organized sports, or walks through the woods, try to fill up some of your child’s non-screen time. 

6. Don’t use screen time as a reward

“Earning” screen time as a reward for chores or good grades glorifies the device. Screen time becomes negotiable and soon your children will attempt to buy more screen time through positive behavior. This is a way around the intent of reducing time spent on digital devices. 

7. Lead by example

Your own screen use must mirror the restraint you’re urging for your children. They’ll question, out loud or silently, why they’re subject to arbitrary rules. 

8. Follow up

When you set up screen time rules, give some thought to enforcement. It’s up to you to decide how strict or lenient your rules will be, but there must be some follow-up or the screen time rules will soon emerge as empty and therefore ignorable. Kids need boundaries, so ignore the griping and apply your screen time rules consistently. 

Abdow Friendship Pediatrics is your partner. Talk to us if you’re having trouble establishing boundaries with your children. You can schedule a consultation by phone or online today.