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How to set screen time rules that actually work

One of the reasons why kids are always on their phones or watching TV is because they are idle. Parents must keep children busy by encouraging other beneficial activities. For instance, you can encourage them to go outside and play, teach them how to cook and bake, or enroll them in sports and art classes.

Setting screen time rules in an era where even homework is digital can be an uphill climb. Today, every home has at least four screens in the form of TV, computer, mobile phone, and tablet. While its common knowledge that too much screen time is bad for their mental and physical health, enforcing the rules is a whole different ball game. While every child is different, these practical tips have worked for many parents.

  1. Lead by example
    The first step to enforcing screen time rules is to talk with the kids about balance. Let them know about the effects of too much screen time or anything else. However, if you talk to the kids and not lead by example, they will not hear you. As a parent, you also have to cut your screen time, especially in front of the kids. Focus on doing other activities like reading, cleaning, playing, and having conversations with them. When you are fully present with your kids, they will be too busy to run to screens.

  2. Parental control apps
    Parental control apps like Screen Time help to monitor every device in your house. You can switch off the device from your phone, block unnecessary programs, and keep tabs on how long they are on the device. If your child uses the device for homework, you will be able to tell when they deviate from that and start watching other things.

  3. Timers and schedules
    Setting a specific time for digital devices and television works very well. For instance, many parents have set a schedule for kids to watch TV on weekend mornings. You can also schedule one hour of screen time right after school to wind down before they start on dinner. A timer ensures the child stays within the recommended time limit. Since you have already discussed why there is a limit, the timer does it work efficiently.

  4. Out of sight, out of mind
    For many parents, keeping devices out of children’s way has worked magically. The television is under lock and key from Monday to Friday, and no child has access to any mobile devices. If they must use a computer for homework, it is placed in the living room where the parent can supervise what they are doing. Many parents have confidently said that they will not buy a mobile device for their kids until their 16th birthday.

  5. Encourage other activities
    One of the reasons why kids are always on their phones or watching TV is because they are idle. Parents must keep children busy by encouraging other beneficial activities. For instance, you can encourage them to go outside and play, teach them how to cook and bake, or enroll them in sports and art classes. When their days are full of activities, they will not even notice that a day has passed without any screen time.

The 21st-century kids are bright and sly, so don’t be surprised if they sneak in phones to their bedroom. Being present in every aspect of the child’s life is the only way to know what they are up to. If it helps, you can even pop in unexpectedly in their rooms to see what they are doing.

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