The following tips may be helpful in managing the presence of screens in your child’s everyday lives—after all, phones are going nowhere anytime soon, so we must acknowledge the negative impacts that phones can have and mitigate damage as much as we possibly can. Our children’s well-being depends on it.
Limit your own use
If it’s difficult for you to put down your phone when your child attempts to get your attention, imagine how challenging it is for a child, especially for those at an age when the line between fantasy and reality is already hard to distinguish.
Keep devices in a public space
Keeping tablets and kids’ phones in a space that you can see and monitor accordingly increases the likelihood they will be used according to the terms you established.
Discuss expectations before use
In a calm, non-judgmental tone, ask your child what they would like to do/watch on the device, then discuss when a good end-marker would be (such as at the end of an episode or level).
Incorporate device-free times
Establish times when devices are off-limits, such as during family dinners, directly before bed, or when company is over.
Install an app that limits screen time
Many apps currently exist that monitor duration of screen use for you; use them to your advantage!
Have family game nights
Choose a night or two per week when your family can engage with each other without the distraction of devices. Choose games that are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level, grab some snacks and be open to the possibility that this seemingly corny pastime can be incredibly fun!
Sometimes the easiest solution to nixing screen time is to make your way out into the great outdoors. While Midwest winters don’t always make this easy, it could be as simple as gathering snow for a sensory bin, walking around the block, or blowing bubbles on the porch (bonus points if they freeze!)
Read actual books
While many schools have progressed to work and reading assignments on a tablet, be sure to create breaks from these and encourage actual book handling and reading—ideally every single day.
Keep ‘em busy!
Enroll your child in activities such as sports, art classes, etc.; it will keep their brains engaged, their dopamine levels activated and their social skills sharpened.
Set expectations and enforce them
This may be the most challenging guideline of all; but it’s arguably the most important. And be sure that any and all caregivers are practicing the same limitations to establish and maintain consistency.