Tips for Reducing Screen Time
School is out! Some children and families may be taking advantage of time away from school to be active and to spend time outdoors; however, now that children will have more free time, they will also have more opportunities for screen time. With electronic devices readily available, limiting your child’s or your family’s screen time may seem like an impossible task. The good news is that there are many strategies that you can use to not only reduce screen time, but to improve your family’s overall health and wellbeing.
‘Screen time’ is defined as time spent using screen-based devices, such as televisions, tablets, computers or smartphones. Screen time can have a negative impact on children’s health, especially when they participate in sedentary screen time, which is time spent sitting, reclining or laying down when using screens.
You may be wondering if all screen time is considered unhealthy. Screen time can have positive aspects, such as providing an important way to learn and communicate in school and at work, and providing opportunities for some physical activity, for example, playing sport or dance games on devices. However, the bottom line is that children are getting too much screen time; therefore, it is important to minimize the amount of time children spend participating in screen-based activities.
Children are spending an average of five to seven hours a day using screens instead of spending time being active and outdoors. This is problematic because too much screen time can make it difficult for children to sleep and it can also raise their risk of attention problems, anxiety, depression and obesity. For this reason, it’s recommended to limit your child’s screen time and to encourage them to live a balanced day, which includes physical activity, social interaction, fun and educational activities, and a good night’s sleep.
To promote a balanced day, it is recommended to stay within the recommended screen time limits. The following are the recommended hours of screen time for different age groups:
- Under 2 years: None
- 2-4 years: Less than 1 hour a day
- 5-17 years: No more than 2 hours a day
Working towards reducing your child’s screen time may seem like a challenge – especially if they are accustomed to much more than 0 to 2 hours of screen time per day. However, there are many great strategies that you can adopt to help your family reduce the time they spend using screens.
Tips to reduce screen time
- Keep a journal. This is a very helpful strategy to use as you are getting started. Log all of your family’s screen time and their active time. By doing this, you’ll be able to compare how much time your family is spending sitting versus being active. Keeping a journal will also give you an idea of where you fall in terms of the recommended guidelines. For example, if you realize that your children are getting approximately five hours of screen time each day, this gives you a good baseline and you will be able to set some goals from there.
- Make a “to-do” list for your kids every day. Unless your children complete all items on that to-do list (i.e. cleaning their room, spending 1 hour outside, reading a book, etc), they are not permitted to use screens.
- Create “screen-free hours”. Your children and family members will know that during specified hours, they are not permitted to use their screens and have to find other ways to stay busy. For example, you can create a list of activities that they can choose from, that include things like playing catch, going to the park, packing a picnic, etc.
- Create “screen free bedrooms”. This would mean that if your kids want to use their screens, they have to do so in a common room where you can keep an eye on how much time they are dedicating towards screens.
- Make screen time more active. This is a great strategy to use when you’re having a difficult time reducing screen time. You can make screen time more active by either getting up during commercial breaks to exercise (i.e. challenge your entire family to do 10 push ups or jumping jacks during each commercial) or, if you’re watching a movie or a show that doesn’t have commercials, you can set a timer to remind your family to get up and move every 20 or 30 minutes.
Many strategies are available to help your family cut back on screen time. Consider trying out a few to find out which ones work best for your family.
For more information and tips on how to reduce screen time, visit the following websites: