As much as you’d like to deny it, screens provide a valuable resource for many homeschoolers. The digital world is full of videos, documentaries, games, online classes, and more that can play a part in the daily life; but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t addicting to your children, attracting them like insects to light.
If you feel that you’re trying to find the balance between the right amount of screen time for your family, you’re not alone. It’s important to remember what works for your family might not work for another, and you have to be willing to make tweaks to the system until you find the right fit. Nonetheless, below are six ways to effectively limit your children’s screen time.
Why Reduce Screen Time?
You don’t need to just blindly trust that screen time has negative effects. In fact, it has been studied numerous times and has consistently shown the following:
- Social problems
- Behavioral problems
- Negative functional changes in the brain
- Sleep problems and/or sleep deprivation
- Risk of problems like depression or anxiety
This doesn’t mean that if your child has allotted screen time they will have these issues. It is not a one-size-fits-all problem; however, limiting screen time for your homeschoolers can provide many benefits.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested the following for a healthy amount of screen time:
- Children under 2 years – no screen time
- Children 3 years and older – 2 hours a day
This recommendation included the use of phones, computers, TVs, tablets, and more. That might seem like a short amount daily, but did you know that Apple founder Steven Jobs did not allow his children to utilize iPads? And he’s not alone! Many other technology leaders also limit the screen time of their children. This should give you some peace of mind when you make the determination to limit the screen time in your home. So where do you begin?
How to Limit Screen Time
As a homeschooling parent, tackling screen time can be an important issue. We are home quite a bit more than most families and have easier access to screens. Plus, using media in your unit studies or taking fun online classes like my own children do through Outschool can be helpful if appropriately used. The good news is, there are many ways that you can address limiting screen time with your family. As mentioned above, not all of these will work for every family. Find what fits best for you and start there.
#1. Watch Your Screen Time
This is the most important piece. Of course, it’s easier to preach instead of practice, but if you’re always glued to your tablet, laptop, or smartphone, you’ll find it much harder to have your children listening to your regulations.
#2. Make Screen Time a Reward
Did your child finish all their school work for the day? Did they do quality work that they are proud of? What about their daily chores? My sons have to get on the treadmill or stationary bike for 1 hour to earn 1.5 hours of Xbox time. Once all are completed, consider that being the time that you allow your child to use their screen time.
#3. Set Times of Day
Don’t be afraid to not allow screens between certain times of the day. During meal prep and meal times, outside play time, or any other time you would like the full attention of your children. Alternately, you can incorporate a “screen time access period”. Give a time range where they CAN access their screens. This can be immediately after homeschool/traditional school and before dinner (say 3:30-5:30) or Saturday mornings from 9:00-12:00. You get the idea.
#4. Set Standards of Quality
If your child has a screen during your home school day, be sure they understand what is and isn’t allowed in terms of quality. Make sure that games, movies, YouTube are all monitored for quality content.
#5. Remove Screens for Attitudes
We all know that our children go through phases where they are less than perfect, even unruly at times. If your child begins to complain and talk back, consider revoking their screen time privileges and refocusing on something else until their mood improves. Remember, YOU are the parent. Not them.
#6. Limit Rooms that Screens are Allowed
Don’t be afraid to limit screens in the bedrooms. By only allowing screens in the common areas of the home, you are able to more easily monitor what your children are doing in front of them. Plus, it helps to establish a bedroom as a place of rest and relaxation without the noise and distraction of computers.
Finally, if all else fails, keep this in mind…
There is no right or wrong way to limit screen time. Just remember that no matter what you decide, make sure that you continue to encourage other activities for your child to help keep them busy and active. For creative sports or homeschool PE ideas check out my post Beyond Sports. Some ideas include YMCA/pool memberships, board games, books (A Series of Unfortunate Events was a HUGE hit in our home for over 6 months!), science kits/experiments, and other activities to keep your children engaged without having screens cemented to their hands.