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Setting Screen Time Limits at Home

Mercedes Delgado

With recent studies being published regarding the effects of screen time on a child's developing brain, many parents are left to wonder how they can effectively change their children's routines. Over the last year I have been working hard on reducing screen time at home.  My oldest has a difficult time transitioning and terminating preferred activities. I found that extended screen time created poor emotional regulation and irregular sleep patterns. Last summer I began implementing schedules for learning activities, story time, playtime, and screen time. I have to admit that my follow through has been less than perfect. As a mom and therapist, I know there will be times that screens will be used. Don’t feel discouraged if you are unable to completely eliminate screen time at home. What is most important is establishing clear time limitations, encouraging play, and setting time aside for playtime, learning, and family interaction.

Here are my top 5 recommendations to help you reduce children’s screen time at home.

(Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through my referral link I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.)

Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

1.Family Media Plan

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great tool to help parents create a Family Media Plan. It provides information and guidance on how to develop Screen Free Zones, Screen Free Times, Device Curfews, and how to Choose & Diversify your Media Selection.

Visit the link below to create your Family Media Plan:

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

2. Create a visual schedule

Create a visual schedule and use a timer when introducing new routines in your home. Great routines to add to your visual schedule are story time, building a train set, building a lego set, playing a board game, coloring, outside play, gardening, helping with chores, and music time. Children respond well when given visuals versus only receiving “verbal commands”. You can create your own visual schedules by taking pictures of toys, books, and other items in your home. You can glue or tack them on a calendar, poster board, or cork board.

You can also purchase some of these great routine schedules and cards I found on Teachers Pay Teachers:

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

3. Give positive feedback

Give positive feedback and reinforcement when your child engages in a new activity. A great way to do this is by allowing your child to place a sticker, write a check mark, or a happy face on each activity completed. Avoid giving too much attention to negative behaviors and understand that the change will happen gradually. By giving positive feedback and providing fun activities, children will quickly develop a positive association to new routines.

You can use a wall calendar or purchase reward charts like the one I found on TPT:

I love the rewards chart by Learn & Climb I found on Amazon. It comes with pictures of daily routines and magnetic stars. But you can still use your own pictures!

Follow my Amazon affiliate link if you are interested in purchasing this chart:

Picture by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

4. Educational Apps

If you have already created a Family Media Plan and are looking to diversify your children’s media selection, check out these educational apps recommended by Apple

Before downloading an app, I recommend that parents review the content to ensure it is educational and appropriate for your child’s age. Also look for apps that allow turn taking so that you can guide and join your children in play.

Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

5. A change of scenery

Have you implemented changes to your children’s daily routines but feel you are still struggling with screen time limits? Have you tried adding more play, reading, and family activities, but your children are complaining of being bored and continue to request more screen time?  Sometimes being at home too much can create a feeling of boredom.  Try changing the scene by finding kid friendly activities around the community. 

Our local library in Melbourne Beach offers FREE storytimes for toddlers and preschoolers two times a week, as well as a Tales to Tails program where children have the opportunity to read to therapy dogs.  They frequently invite community helpers, such as police officers and firefighters to read to children.

Check out the Brevard County Public Libraries’ Event Calendar for Youth and Teen Activities.

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