The number one thing that’s stealing your time and your kids time is screen time. After this post, you’re literally going to feel like you can become the mom that doesn’t just slap a screen in front of their kid in order to get by. Whether in the car, at mealtimes, in the grocery store, or during your work block you can get your kids to reduce their screen time and you can reclaim valuable time and connection that has been lost. I specifically have two simple routines you can start to implement today to reduce your kids screen time.
Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast
Know the Research
If you have a culture of using screens liberally in your home I think it is important you first understand some of the side effects of what it does to your kids. First, read a couple facts from the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry.
- Children ages 8-12 in the US spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens and teens up to 9 hours.
- Too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, lower grades in school, reading fewer books, less time with family and friends, not enough time outdoors, being overweight, low physical activity, body image issues, and fear of missing out.
Here are some more facts from another study from UNICEF.org that looks at younger children and how it affects them in their later years in life.
- Screen time reduces your children’s empathy.
- Screen time curtails kids ability to control impulses.
- Exposure to screens reduces babies ability to read human emotion and control their frustration.
- Screen time detracts from activities that boost their brain power like play and interacting with other children.
- Screens interrupt the channel of communication in children’s brains to read nonverbal communication and has shown to have long term effects on kids brain development.
There is a Better Way
For all those moms out there that just want to have time to focus on their work, I get that and I understand it but there has to be a better way. And there is a better way. Throughout your day there can be a different routine established than the one you have that includes a screen.
This has been a progression for our family. Our kids used to have iPads and YouTube until I saw what it was doing to Franki. Now there is only YouTube on the shared television. I then started removing their favorite apps on their iPads and now they are not interested in them anymore. It was hard to remove the screens. I knew I was trading in two hours of focused work but it was not who I wanted to be as a parent.
So, today I’m going to give you two simple, fun, practical routines that I do with my kids to reduce screen time. If you do this for a week I promise you will see a huge change in your children’s behavior. You will see improvements in the way you are interacting with them and the way they are interacting with you. So here is the first routine we do in order to reduce screen time.
The number one place I see people giving screens to their kids is when they are not at home. This is when parents want to be able to focus and don’t want to be bothered by their children that don’t have a long attention span. Well the reason they don’t have a long attention span is because they are addicted to screen time.
A hard fast rule we have in our family is our children do not have screens when we leave this house period. Sometimes when we leave our home my children are made aware that mom will have her phone and will be taking videos and posting to social later as part of the work I do.
This is the most fun routine that you can get your kids involved in and you won’t get the push back. You have to understand there is an addiction here for you and your kids and when you remove these things you will start to get push back and temper tantrums. But that is ok, you know better and you have a plan in place on exactly how to help them.
There are two different types of go bags, one for your kids and one for you. I want you to be prepared with both of them. Let’s first look at what it takes to be prepared with a go bag for your kids so whenever you go to leave the house there is no tablet, no cellphone, no nothing. There is no need for it, even with older kids.
1. Kid’s Go-Bag
Every kid in the house has their own go bag and they get to pack it themselves. Books, toys, games, paper, scissors, beading. I will go through it with them and change it up whenever I notice that it is not holding their attention anymore.
If I know my kids are having a hard time we will take the go bag into the restaurant with us. It’s a normal everyday backpack that sits on the bench. You can leave these in the car but in Arizona crayons melt.
2. Mom Go Bag
There are three types of boredom busters you can have inside of your purse to reduce screen time when you are out of the house.
These are games you hold inside your head but can write them down on a piece of paper and put them inside your bag.
- I Spy shapes, colors, numbers, animals
- Cloud game of guessing pictures
- Who am I?
- Who is the quietest? (my personal favorite)
- Knock-knock jokes
- Math problems
Sometimes it’s just getting my oldest to open up and talk and dream. It’s also ok to just be quiet in the car.
2. Independent Play
We have a tiny sack of wooden travel games. You can also have books, journals, mini coloring books and crayon sets, a mini etch-a-sketch, or a Rubix Cube. Just go in the dollar section of Target. If you have older kids you might have to have a conversation about this. Tell them you know they might not like it but you want to engage them more, and get to know them better.
We love our snacks and we go heavy on the snacks. That’s all I’m going to say about that one.
Let’s go into the second routine. This is one I am super fired up about.
Meal Time Routine
The number one time I am inclined to put my kids in front of a screen is at meal time. I love to cook and I love to have my kids cook with me but sometimes it’s easy to tell them to just go put on Blippi so I can get this done real quick. You feel me on that one?
Let’s talk about how unbelievably influential mealtime can be over your kids when you remove screen time and how you can use this routine to reduce screen time. There are four steps to this routine.
1. Get Them Involved in Meal Prep
Use this time to teach them about food. Teach them about nutrition and safety in cooking. Talk about your favorite things to eat and memories you have around food. Or just talk to them about their day. Just stop and talk to your kids. I promise they love that 1,000 times more than they love that iPad.
“Just stop and talk to your kids. I promise they love that 1,000 times more than they love that iPad.”
2. Assign Them a Serving Role
Each person should have a job for getting food on the table. Even from itty bitty, like if they can walk. Have them put a cup or napkins on the table. If they are bigger they should be serving food and putting it out on the table. Every single person can get involved in this one.
3. Make Meal Time Exciting
What are you doing during meal time that is making everyone super excited? Phones should be no where near the dinner table at this point. If everyone is up and down you first need to work on getting everyone to sit through the meal.
We play games at the table such as fun card games that ask questions. If it’s breakfast time before school we ask what we are looking forward to that day or we ask our kids how they can use their gifts to help others. We ask them what part of them do they want to focus on improving. Get creative and engage your kids. We have lost this time of connection because we have leaned on screen time too much. Alright, onto the final part of the meal time routine.
4. Have Your Kids Ask to be Excused
Here’s why. When you set the precedence that time around the table is sacred they don’t want to miss out on it. The more you show your kids they are worth that kind of time and attention the more they are going to want to show up for it. It also immediately triggers the routine they are suppose to do when they leave the table. They have to clear their plate and depending on their age help clean up. Someone else should be putting food in the Tupperware and wiping the table. This is a part of mealtime that I don’t want you to overlook.
When you have this kind of commitment and value on a small part of your day your kids start to learn honor and respect for some of the most foundational parts of their life. Like how to nourish themselves and come together and communicate even on hard days. Instead of leaning on electronics you show up for each other.
Give it a Try
This might feel like lightyears away for your family or you just might need a few tweaks. Wherever you are on this spectrum and no matter how much you have allowed screen time in your life with your kids I promise these two routines will make a huge impact not only on your kids but on your whole family. I encourage you to try it out and I would love to hear how it goes and to hear your fears and wins. Come share it inside our Facebook group. The community I have created to have an after party. Thanks for meeting me here and I look forward to having you back!
Frequently Asked Questions
Meal time is so chaotic! How can I even think about not having screens!?
I get it, I really do. If meal time is a sore spot in your day you need to step back and look at why. Do you have your time blocks in place? If not download my free workbook. Do you have your Fundamental Needs in place where you are sitting down before the week begins and meal planning and making sure there is food in the house? If not again download my free workbook. Get the foundation set so you can begin to imagine having meal time be a time that everyone looks forward to!