Parents have been told over and over again by experts that too much screen time can be bad for kids. “We see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in,” Dr. Nicholas Kardarastold NY Post. But what do you do if your child is already addicted to it? One parent accidentally stumbled on a simple but effective trick that just might work on your toddler.
In a now-viral post on Reddit, user Iwanttosleep8hours wrote, “I'm really embarrassed to admit this but my toddler became a TV addict. It started with him waking at 4 to 4:30 a.m. every morning and it became the only way he would stay quiet.”
Pretty soon, the tot started to have meltdowns and tantrums over the TV. Consequently, the parent would tell him that there would be no more TV for him the next day. Unfortunately, as sleep-deprived moms would know, it’s easier to turn on the TV than have to entertain a toddler at 4 a.m., so the parent didn’t really get to follow through with the early morning screen ban.
Until one morning, there was a happy accident: the remote control went missing. “We looked for 10 minutes until my son happily gave up and decided to eat breakfast,” said the parent. The next day, the parent purposely hid the remote control, and the same thing happened.
“We looked for it but he soon gave up again without being upset. This morning was day 3, and TV wasn't the first thing on his mind amazingly. He asked after half an hour and got a bit upset but then went to play in his room on his own!”
The parent also reported that, with the TV now off the table, the toddler is able to find other ways to keep himself busy like playing with their pets and exploring their home. “I thought without TV he would be constantly clingy but it seems to be the opposite,” the parent wrote. “We didn't need [the TV] after all!”
Lots of parents also shared on Reddit that “The remote is missing” and “It’s broken” tactics work on their kids most of the time, too. “We just said ‘The TV is broken.’ We pressed the buttons on the remote (there was no battery in it) and the TV didn't turn on. Just like that, he turned back to his normal self, without being bothered by the broken TV,” wrote buzz bear, a parent to a 2-year-old.
User theo_sontag shared their TV actually broke and, at first, their son kept asking about it. “Eventually he stopped asking and found other things to do. We now have a new TV, but we were able to do a sort of 'reset' on his watching habits, and make it something special again, rather than default mode.”
Resetting a child’s screen time should involve around a three-week ban, said Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D., a child psychiatrist who specializes in children with complex or treatment-resistant mental health conditions. Afterward, you can do the same as the parent above and set firm limits and boundaries to screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends just an hour for kids 2 to 5 years old (more screen time rules here).
For parents with tots glued to tablets and phone, maybe try hiding the charger?