Tips to Reduce Screen Time for Children

Child sitting in front of TV

Whether your kids are watching their favorite show, playing an educational game or coloring on an app, they may be spending much more time watching screens than recommended.

The more time they spend on screens, the less time they have to play outdoors. Playing outside provides endless benefits for kids and helps them develop healthy physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills. Below, we’ll discuss why it’s essential to limit screen time for your kids and encourage them to play outdoors.

The Importance of Non-Screen Time

Today’s kids only spend an average of four to seven minutes outside per day. Those same kids average seven hours in front of electronics, such as television, tablets, computers and phones, daily. Electronics hold critical importance in families’ lives today. The ubiquity of home-based and hybrid learning alongside the increased use of technology in the physical classroom means kids are receiving more screen time than ever.

Building digital literacy skills is certainly important as kids grow up in an increasingly tech-forward world. Electronics have also played an essential role in combatting learning loss amid school closures. Kids’ increased reliance on electronics makes setting aside some screen-free time and some playtime outside all the more critical.

While most parents recognize their kids aren’t active enough during the day, some aren’t sure why it’s so important or how to alleviate these concerns when e-learning is so popular in today’s world.

All parents want their kids to be healthy, compassionate, independent and well-rounded individuals. The best way to promote these qualities in your kids is to encourage them to spend more time outside.

Yes, you read that right!

By encouraging your younger kids to spend more time outdoors and away from digital devices whenever possible, you’re not only supporting your child’s physical well-being — you’re helping them improve their emotional, social and intellectual well-being, too. Whether it’s a trip to the park or taking a hike through the woods, there’s no denying the benefits of stepping away from the screen and into the fresh air.

Recommended Screen Time for Kids

As a parent, you already juggle many responsibilities, and it can be difficult to entertain your children 24/7. While computers and tablets help keep your kids engaged and relaxed, they shouldn’t use devices all the time. The American Academy of Pediatrics has set these recommendations for children and screen time:

  • No screen time for kids under 2
  • One hour per day maximum for kids 2-12
  • Two hours maximum for teens and adults

Even sitting down for a family movie night counts as screen time, but that type of bonding is important for many families. There are several factors that may prevent you from hitting these exact recommended targets, but it’s good to keep it in the back of your mind the next time you pull out the tablets.

8 Tips to Reduce Your Child’s Screen Time

With so many children reliant on technology nowadays, it’s helpful to reduce screen time however you can. To help your family shift from relying on screen time to spending more time outdoors on the playground, here are some tips on how to reduce screen time for kids.

1. Have a Conversation and Create a Plan

The first step to reducing screen time is to set expectations. Have conversations about screen-time limits and why it’s important to spend time outdoors. If your kids spend a lot of free time watching screens, it can be difficult for them to adjust to the routine of putting them away.

Start by setting smaller, more realistic goals, like reducing screen time by an hour and building it up from there. Because kids have different hobbies at different ages, discuss with them why you’re reducing screen time and introduce new activities for them to enjoy outside at your local playground or park.

2. Engage With Your Kids

It can be challenging to find enough time in the day to take your kids outside for physical activity instead of sitting on the couch watching TV. However, it’s important to be engaged with your kids after school and work and give them your full attention whenever you can.

By putting your phone down and taking your kids outside, you can improve quality time with them and interact in fun outdoor activities instead of being on screens in separate rooms.

3. Come up With Outdoor Activities That Suit Their Interests

If your kids are not used to spending a lot of time outdoors and are more inclined to use screens during leisure time after school, take them outside and show them how much fun they can have. Whether you take them on a walk in the park, play catch in a field or let them explore and climb on a playground, there are plenty of ways you can get your kids to enjoy the great outdoors.

If your kids are not used to spending a lot of time outdoors and are more inclined to use screens during leisure time after school, them them outside and show them how much fun they can have.

Try to make a habit of spending at least two hours outside per day, if possible, by coming up with fun activities that your kids will love. Bringing them to the community playground will likely spark their interest as they can swing, slide, climb, bounce and challenge themselves in many new ways.

4. Don’t Keep Screens in Your Child’s Room

If your kids have TVs, tablets or computers in their rooms, it can cause them to isolate themselves with their devices instead of spending time in communal areas of the house. This isolation can make it difficult to supervise their screen time and lead to habits like not spending time with family or not wanting to engage with friends outdoors.

Using screens in their bedrooms can also lead to sleep problems. If possible, try not to keep electronic devices in their rooms so they won’t be tempted to isolate themselves during their free time.

5. Go Outside

Many kids and adults are used to spending the majority of their day looking at screens, even at school and work. It can be a challenge to change this routine up, but simply making it a habit to go outside every day can establish a new pattern. For example, if you and your kids only spend about 30 minutes outside per day, try increasing it to an hour.

Taking your kids to the playground can help them stay entertained while they’re away from screens and make it easier to shift to less screen time overall. Spending time at the playground can also allow them to develop friendships, increase their physical activity and gain an appreciation for the outdoors.

6. Monitor Your Own Screen Time

One of the most common things caregivers try to do is lead by example. With screen time, this same idea applies. If your kids see you on your smartphone scrolling on social media, answering emails or streaming your favorite shows on your laptop, they’re less likely to see the benefit of getting off their own screens.

By reducing your own screen time and going to the park with your kids, you can all reap the benefits of the fresh air, sunshine and physical activity. Not to mention, you get to spend more time with your children and be present in the moment.

7. Take Advantage of Parental Controls

When reducing screen time, many parents may decide to give warnings to kids by letting them know when they have 10 minutes left before they need to shut off devices. If this doesn’t work for your family, try using programs, apps or settings on your devices that automatically shut off after a certain amount of time.

Limiting screen time for kids with these parental controls can take the frustration out of dealing with reluctance to turn off screens and encourage your kids to do something else with their time, like read a book or play a board game with the family.

8. Make Adjustments as They Get Older

Another way to reduce screen time and maintain consistency is to adjust the limits as your kids get older. Following the APA’s guidelines, younger children under 12 should only have one hour per day of screen time, while older teens may have up to two hours. However, every family is different, so it’s important to make adjustments that work for your home specifically.

For instance, as your kids become middle schoolers and teens, they may seek more independence and want more screen time. They might even have more demanding schoolwork that requires extra time on the computer. As long as you stick to a plan that keeps screen time limited and maintains the importance of outdoor physical activity, you can find something that works for everyone.

Get out and Play

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Screen time management may seem difficult to implement, but taking small steps may be all you need to make a difference in your child’s life. Taking your kids to a playground is an easy and fun way for them to engage with others socially while getting the physical activity they need for healthy development.

At Miracle® Recreation, it’s our mission to provide communities, schools and families with playground equipment that motivates kids to value outdoor play. We design quality, durable and inclusive playground equipment that can be customized to provide a wide range of exciting activities for all ages. To learn more about building a new playground in your community to help encourage outdoor play, contact us today.