In a recent article I wrote about the problems associated with children spending too much time in front of a screen, whether it be a TV, computer or gaming device. In this article I will make some suggestions as to how you can help reduce the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen without them revolting. This will in turn prevent the negative consequences from “over viewing.”
It is important from the beginning that you set a time limit on how much television your child can watch. This should depend on how old they are as well as how many other devices they are using. Talk to them when they get older if they have a question about the limit. Also, if possible, DVR the show so you can eliminate the commercials which will allow them more TV show time. You will probably also have to limit the amount of time they spend on a computer or similar device. Most professionals suggest that total screen time for a child be limited to two hours a day.
Set A Good Example
If you are sitting in front of the TV or computer all day you are not setting a good example and your child will want to know why it is OK for you to do this but not them. Do yourself a favor and eliminate this problem by just not doing it. Children learn much better by example than words; they don’t do well with the “don’t do as I do, but do as I say” philosophy.
Do not place a television or computer in a child’s room. Doing so will only make it impossible to regulate their viewing of television or use of the computer. The television should be placed in a room that the entire family uses, preferably the family room or living room. The computer, if it is a desktop, should be placed in an area where the child is visible to you. If it is a laptop do not let them use it in their bedroom. Invite them to sit at the kitchen table or have a designated spot they are able to use it. If possible, it would be best to have a designated study area where your children are able to use the computer. A television or computer in a child’s room is only inviting that child to use them during the middle of the night when you are sleeping.
There will be times when you are not home and someone else will be there with your children. Make it clear to the babysitter, grandparents and even the child’s friend’s parents, what your child’s limits are so that when they are with these other people their limits will be enforced.
To help children from gaining weight while they sit at the computer or watching television limit the snacks they are allowed to eat. Provide healthy ones and place them in a bowl so they won’t eat a whole bag of something. Encourage them to do some stretching exercises while they watch television. If you do this from the beginning then this will not seem strange to them.
When it comes time to turn the devices off make sure there are alternatives for the child and suggest that they use them. Supply board games, toys for the younger ones and outdoor activities for when the weather is nice. You may even want to go for a walk with them after sitting for so long. If you have a dog this would be a great time for the older ones to take it for a walk.
In conclusion the important thing to remember is to set things up before they get out of hand. If you don’t set up limits from the beginning this will be hard to do later on. No one wants something to be taken away. The same goes for allowing them to use their laptop or tablet in the bedroom. This should be off limits from the beginning so you don’t have to take it away. Best of luck.