Digital detox: How to avoid and reduce screen time
These days, many of us are guilty of having a bit too much screen time. However, initiating a digital detox for you and the kids can be simple and transformative.
Over the last year, with schools and nurseries going virtual and play areas and cafes closed, it has become even more difficult to say no to screen time. With everything becoming remote, it's been much busier at home, and easy to just sit your child in front of the TV or hand them the iPad.
Figures show that there's been a surge in screen time too. Kids tech firm SuperAwesome found that, when Coronavirus lockdowns came into place in the US, screen time was up by 50%. A year later, the percentage has remained the same. Similar figures can be seen across the globe.
Although screen-time and interaction with technology can make kids more digitally literate, unfortunately, the experts say that this trend is an unhealthy one. Scientists have found that increased screen time is linked to shortsightedness, depression and Electronic Screen Syndrome.
Of course, with more than 175,000 new children going online each day, they are also more exposed to online threats, such as cyberbullying, sexual abuse, and inappropriate content.
So, now more than ever, it's important to encourage your kids to have a much-needed break from the screen.
Here at Hiccups & Buttercups, we'll break down some of our helpful hints and tips that you can follow to reduce screen time and have fun as a family.
Introduce technology-free zones
A great way for you and the family to avoid screen time all together is to create technology-free zones in the home. So, that means no TV, no smartphones, no iPads, and no laptops. An ideal place for this tech-free zone to exist is the kitchen or dining room.
This way, breakfast, lunch and dinner can be times where the family comes together to spend quality time, catch up and laugh.
Setting up these rules can be a great way to establish fair and well-defined boundaries for younger children.
Of course, it's always important to have an open and honest dialogue with your children, so it's a good idea to clearly and simply explain the reasons behind the tech-free zone too.
Speaking to Good Housekeeping, Richard Bromfield, PhD, author of Cyber-Smarts: Raising Children in a Digital Age, emphasised the importance of this. He says: "Old-fashioned, thoughtful, and consistent parenting takes time and effort, but may be the surest and quickest way to go."
Create fun activities outside
Whether it's in the garden or at a local park, it's crucial to show children that they can have adventures and fun outside of the house, away from screens.
By planning creative days where kids can use their imaginations, they'll feel stimulated, entertained, and get some exercise! Fun activities could include:
- Creating a themed treasure hunt
- Trying out a new sport, or
- Playing an imagination game with them
It's also vital to implement these changes as early as possible; that's what a study published in JAMA Pediatrics found. It outlined: "Interventions to reduce screen time could have a better chance of success if introduced early."
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Switch parental locks on
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your kids can resist the rules that you've put in place. This can feel challenging, but don't give up! After all, experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics have emphasised the importance of setting reasonable limits on screen time.
One way to overcome your children's resistance to your rules is by setting up parental locks. This way, you can limit their screen time and ensure that they don't view harmful and inappropriate content.
Most routers, web browsers, and TVs offer parental locks. Meanwhile, you can also control app activity by setting time limits.
It's also important that parents have the same approach to screen time rules to be as effective as possible. This is especially true for those who are co-parenting.
Prioritise family time
While it can be a bit easier to control the screen habits of your younger children, if you have older children, it can sometimes feel a bit more difficult to tackle limiting their screen time.
That said, through prioritising family time and ensuring that everyone is involved, screen time can be minimised significantly. Going back to basics is a great way to bring the family together without tech invading.
So, setting up a family games night, where you all get together to play a board game, charades or Pictionary, is a good start. Alternatively, arranging regular family outings that the whole family will enjoy is another sure-fire way to reduce screen time.
Ensure that you switch off too
Of course, in the hullabaloo of parenting, it can be easy to overlook your own need to step away from the screen and take some time out for yourself. After a long day, it can be incredibly tempting to switch off by mindlessly scrolling on social media or flicking from app to app.
As a parent, you need to switch off too and practice what you preach. Some great strategies to ensure that you are well-rested, engaged and not overstimulated include:
- Keeping your phone in a different room at night for a better night's sleep. A 2017 study published in the journal Sleep found that social media usage in the 30 minutes before bedtime can lead to sleep disturbance
- Purging your phone of unnecessary and time-consuming apps
- Turning off phone notifications. This can have long-term mental health benefits and reduce feelings of anxiety
- Reading more - there's a whole world of books out there, whatever your genre preference
- Taking up a new hobby (be that cross-stitching, painting or DIY)
So, while at first, it may seem challenging to introduce a digital detox in your home, now you have plenty of helpful tips that will guide you through and make the transition as smooth as possible.