Reducing Screen Time of Children
They say it takes an entire village to bring up a kid. And now that we can’t depend on villages or our smaller community to keep our kids engaged, we are increasingly getting dependent on screens to keep them engaged while we finish off our last presentation, or have a cup of coffee in peace. Not only are our kids becoming addicted to screens, we parent/s are too.
How to get your child off the screen
There are two ways to go about it: go cold turkey (when all access to screen is withdrawn) or you allow your child 1-2 hours of screen time every day in exchange for helping you around the house.
1. Take away screens for a few hours daily
For the kids, you are the role model. If you are glued to your screens, do not expect your child do any different. If you want to keep your child away from screens, you need to limit your screen use too. Start with shutting off all screens for few hours (begin with 30 mins), and playing/reading/drawing with your kid.In the weekends, make it a point to use screens only when absolutely necessary.
2. Keep the kid engaged
Kids need to be engaged. When you are planning to wean them off the screen time, you need to find alternatives. A little boredom, and they would demand TV. Gauge what your kid enjoys the most when not watching TV, and let her/him do those things when not watching screen.
Check out Koparo’s Gadget Cleaners.
Assign a task to your kid when you cannot sit with them. If the kid is younger, you can always give them some paint (if the kid is old enough to hold a paintbrush) and papers or let them have fun with water. Squirt bottles and play dough are big saviours, but make sure of not giving any parts that can harm your child or your child can swallow (bath toys are a good option too). Get games (board games like ludo) that the kid can enjoy with someone.
3. Talk about increased screen time
Talk to your kids about why screens are not good, in a soft but firm voice. Explain why passive screen time is doing more harm than good (which also applies to you). If they have any questions, answer politely. Do not expect a no-tantrum transition but stay firm. It will take effort and time, but if you stay consistent, you will see your kid wanting to do things with you, move around the house, helping around the house more and more, without your supervision and asking. Utilise this time to keep them involves around the house.
Ask them to help you around the house if and when they complain of being bored.
4. Make chores interesting
Kids love playing with water and making a mess. So make a note of it before you give them a task. Start with simple tasks that are easy to follow, like watering the plants or separating dark and light clothes for laundry. To make it interesting, you can put a timeline to do it. For instance, ask your child to fill half the bucket for mopping the floor in three minutes, or ask her/him to get the dusting cloth from the other room in ten jumps, or wipe the table by not lifting the cloth from the surface.
Do not start with all the tasks at once. Start small, start simple to make a bigger difference. Once the kid is adept with these tasks, assign them with little bigger ones like laying the table or making the bed.
5. Help kids with chores
Once you have told your kid to do a task, do not expect them to do it all on their own from the first go, and do not reprimand your child for messing up. Let them falter while you supervise them gently. It is easier to follow this rule when you are relatively free, and not in middle of an important task. It will be better to start on a weekend.
Also read article on Importance of Doing Chores and Home Tasks for Indian Kids
Age-appropriate chores for kids
- Cleaning up their toys
- Washing and Cleaning vegetables
- Dusting of cupboards
- Arranging bookshelves
- Watering plants
6. Create a chore organisation chart
Just like we get bored with chores, our kids would too. To keep them motivated, create a chore chart, where you list chores against the names of family members, and paste it where everyone can see it. Once your child has a visual reminder about what everyone in the house is doing, she will comply more easily.
7. Reward your child
Make another column in that chart which lists the reward for the child. The reward can be in the form of stickers, stars on the chart, etc. You can make it a point-based reward system also, where you can exchange the reward points for screen time. Once your child starts helping you around the house, or doesn’t want to (remember, each one of us has off days), don't force or use chores as punishment. This will only put them off chores in the longer run.