Navigating and managing our children’s screen time is part and parcel of being a Millennial parent. Some studies say that screen time is bad and should strictly be monitored. Other studies say that it’s okay and is inevitable given the way things are going, especially post-pandemic.
Regardless of where you stand, most parents worry about how much time their children spend in front of screens—for leisure or educational purposes. While screen time has its benefits, we also recognize the importance of engaging children in non-screen activities.
We know this, and we also know that getting our children off screens and do something else is also challenging.
Why are transitions to off-screen activities hard?
Technology transitions refer to parents and carers’ getting children off screens. And just like other transitions parents have to go through the day with their kids, including stopping play to get ready for bed, or finishing their breakfast to get ready for school, it can be tricky to manage as these involve self-regulation skills–something kids learn and develop as they grow up.
Technology transitions can prove to be doubly challenging for children and their guardians. Since apart from kids possibly doing it more than once a day, devices and all related apps and activities are highly engaging, having been built with the purpose of entertaining its users both young and old.
So how can parents facilitate technology transitions while also minimizing “tech tantrums”?
A study has identified three effective ways parents can help their children transition to off screen activities. In this study, 14 parents were provided with strategies over 12 weeks to support technology transitions. Here are strategies parents in the study found to be most effective:
Prepare your kids
In the same way that abrupt interruptions or change in routine can frustrate adults, sudden screen-time cutoffs can trigger tantrums in children. So you can prevent this by setting clear expectations and preparing your children beforehand. Communicate with your child about when their screen time will end, using phrases like “You can watch two episodes of this show,” or “We’ll stop when this game is finished.” Providing a heads-up about the upcoming activity, whether it’s mealtime or outdoor play, helps ease the transition. Remember, clarity and predictability are key to reducing resistance.
Engage in real-life activities inspired by screens
Leverage your child’s interests in screen content to transition them into non-digital activities seamlessly. For example, if your child enjoys watching Bluey, suggest doing Bluey-themed puzzles or games. Other families in the study transitioned from screens by engaging in similar-themed activities, such as visiting a firehouse after watching a show about firefighters. Additionally, incorporating music from their favorite shows or playing familiar tunes while they’re doing other activities can make the transition smoother and more enjoyable.
Empower your kids with choice
Allowing your children to make choices empowers them and gives them a sense of control over their screen time. Simple choices, such as deciding the number of episodes to watch or setting a timer for their game, can foster independence and teach responsible screen-time management. Remember, while certain aspects of their lives are non-negotiable, offering choices within reasonable boundaries promotes healthy decision-making skills.
Turning off our child’s iPad or TV doesn’t have to be a battle. By trying out these strategies, parents can facilitate smoother transitions, reduce tech tantrums, and encourage a healthier balance between screen time and offline activities. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and with patience and consistency, you can help your child develop lifelong habits for responsible technology use.