Today, we’re continuing on the theme of screen time and I’m going to share with you three key steps for reducing screen time, which I think is going to make the whole process feel a lot easier and more actionable for you.
How do you feel when you think about your children’s screen time?
Do any sensations come up in your body? And how do they make you feel?
I think for many of us, screen time triggers some quite uncomfortable feelings.
But, before we dive in, I want you to know that you’ve done nothing wrong. And if there are voices in you that say that you’ve messed up, they’re just opinions.
Whether it’s in the parenting arena, or any other arena, those voices are just opinions.
The truth is kinder and simpler.
So, how else could you see this? How could you speak with yourself kindly about it? Maybe saying something like, “I’m learning to help my kids manage their screen time.”
Watch the video or scroll down to read more…
Now for the three key steps for reducing screen time that I want to share with you today. I’m going to give you some briefer information on the first two and go into more detail about the last one. They’re all equally important.
Before starting to make any changes, it’s best to consider how you are going to include all three steps in your overarching plan. Then when you start actually implementing, you’re likely to have more success and your changes are more likely to stick.
#1 – Bring some boundaries
If you’re thinking, “I’ve just got to crack down – reduce screen time – take screens away…” you’re right, in that creating some boundaries is a part of the solution.
But there are two things to bear in mind here:
Firstly, boundaries work much better if you include the other two steps – and don’t just crack down.
Secondly boundaries are more effective when they are brought collaboratively and kindly. In life generally, everything that you do with kindness goes more smoothly. That’s what I’ve found to be true over and over again.
#2 – Offer your children connection
The thing about screens is that they offer children a pseudo sense of connectedness, and that’s one reason why they feel and are so addictive. But when you’re really engaged with your child, that true connectedness trumps anything a screen could offer. You are the ultimate prize in terms of your child wanting to connect with something beyond themselves.
If your child is rejecting connection time with you at the moment, and this can happen with older children, it could be that they’re just not trusting that you’ll really be there, present and connected with them.
How does this work? Say, you’ve got screens at mealtimes and you’d like to let that go. Think of bringing in more connected conversation, more presence, more smiles, more lightness. Because when you take away one thing – screens – it’s really helpful to think about replacing it with something else. In this case, connection.
#3 – Alternative interests
Alternative interests for your child to engage in are key to a long term solution to screen time issues. Screens swoop in to fill the vacuum where your child hasn’t perceived something else exciting to do. But when there is an interesting alternative, screens will take second place.
So a big part of finding a solution to screen time in the family is helping your child develop their interests and, ideally, their passion. Your child’s passion is key because it’s the antidote to apathy, to depression, and it’s a huge motivating force. Start asking yourself what your child’s passion is. The questions to ask are;
- What are they drawn to?
- What do they talk about?
- When do they light up?
- What are they really good at?
Maybe they’re really good at baking, or climbing, or dancing. I think everyone has a passion, even though it may be hidden. When children find their passion, it gives them the opportunity to express themselves, and that is a deep need for your child – to express themselves authentically and engage with life.
The four elements are a great inspiration if you want to help your child uncover more interests. I’m talking about the elements of fire, water, air and earth, and I’m going to start with fire.
Many children love baking – bread and cakes. Baking little rolls with children is a great activity that requires very little effort if you use fast-acting yeast. It feels gorgeous and fills the home with a wonderful aroma. It’s just a fantastic activity.
Also, if you’re having any autumn fires, teaching your child how to manage a fire safely is a really important skill. This is something that we taught our son when he was about five or six. I’m not talking about big bonfires, just little fires with a few small sticks. It’s a wonderful activity.
Things like pouring activities, painting, and washing up can be fun when you’re five, six, maybe even seven. Lots of suds – great fun. And outdoor activities like puddles, paddling, streams, skimming stones. Water can bring lots of interest.
Air activities are things like kite flying, big bubbles, paper aeroplanes and various forms of gliders, parachute toys with a hankie. Hours of fun!
Earth is quite a big one. There are pouring activities – pouring things that aren’t water like rice or sand, and a mud kitchen outside with compost and sticks and stones. Then there’s climbing trees, or even a climbing wall or walking along fallen down logs or trees.
I know you’re going to say, “But we can’t really do this while I’m cooking the supper”, and it’s true that some of these activities can’t be done while you’re cooking.
But some crafting or ‘making things’ comes under this heading of earth activities, too, and this is ideal for when you are around but not directly available.
Here’s one fabulous activity you can do: Put out some old some cardboard packaging, plus some other recycling materials that you’ve saved, like cardboard tubes and plastic containers and what have you – alongside some duct tape, scissors and some string. Then let them just play, build and explore. No instructions, just see what happens.
Also, if you have any old electronics, like an alarm clock, or a disused remote control, give them a screwdriver and see how much they enjoy dismantling them.
From all these activities, you’ll begin to see where your child’s interests lie.
For example, my son was never that interested in the water activities. He’s still not mad about swimming, or washing up – definitely not mad about that. He was never much into painting, either.
Observe what your child is drawn to.
If you enjoyed this you might want to also read the first blog in this series: How to Contain Children’s Screen Time in a Post-COVID World.
Next time I plan to talk about boundaries so you can start bringing your plan together for reducing screen time. Do get in touch if you have any questions or you want to share your screen time wins with me.
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