How to Set Limits on Screen Time for your Young Child

Most modern parents can relate to the struggle of setting limits on screen time for their young children. In a world filled with TV screens, cell phones, and tablets, it can feel virtually impossible to truly “unplug” some days. Consequently, many studies have shown the importance of distancing ourselves (and our children) from electronics every once in a while. Below, we’ve outlined some tips to help you set limits on screen time with your young child.

Be Firm with Boundaries

It is important that children learn to take screen time limits seriously. In order to help with this, it is your job as the parent to decide how much screen time you are comfortable with your child getting each day and stick to this limit. Make sure your children know that there is no negotiating and allow them to use their allotted amount of screen time in their own way. For example, if they want to use all of their screen time in one sitting, allow them to, but remind them that it is all they will get for the whole day. Over time, they may realize that it is more beneficial to space out their screen time for the day. 

Utilize a Timer

One of the best ways to stay firm with your screen time limits is to keep a close track on how much your child really is watching my using a timer or simply checking the time when they begin screen time and keeping track of the time. Timers are also a great way to initially figure out how much screen time your kid averages each day, in order to determine an appropriate boundary. It can be easy as parents to turn the TV on and go about your own activities, losing sight of how long your child watches for. However, it is important to try to take the time to pay attention to how long your child is in front of a screen. You can also show your child how to use the timer so that they are also aware of how long they have to watch for, this may help to limit any resistance from them when it comes time to turn the screens off for the day. 

Set an Example

One of the best ways to get your child to listen to you is to set a positive example yourself. It will be difficult to set firm boundaries with screen time if you’re spending hours staring at your own phone or television. Everyone in your family can benefit from limiting screen time and it is up to you as the adult to set the tone and lead by example. Try to be mindful of how frequently you look at your phone when you are around your child. Obviously, there are times when phone calls and responding to text messages are necessary but try not to use your phone much more outside of these times. It can also be helpful to leave your phone’s sound on so that you know if someone has texted or called you without having to constantly check your phone. 

Get Out of the House

One of the best ways to get your kid away from the TV, iPad, or phone screen is to get out of the house and do a fun activity. Keeping young children busy is so important and it can help them find hobbies outside of watching TV or playing video games. The more often you expose your kids to new activities, the more opportunities you’re offering them to find activities that they enjoy. As your child starts to find hobbies they like, they will actually want to go do these things and may even be willing to walk away from the screens without you even having to encourage them. 

Try a Montessori Approach

Montessori is an educational technique that some schools and homeschool parents have adopted over the years. Montessori teaching emphasizes the importance of learning life skills and allowing children to lead the way. Even if you aren’t a homeschool parent, you can still incorporate some aspects of Montessori education at home and this is a great way to keep your child busy and engage them, to help limit screen time. 

Ensure that your child has toys and activity books that encourage critical thinking and problem solving skills, such as puzzles and building blocks. You should also have your child’s toys organized in a way that allows them to easily reach everything. Encourage your child to help with chores and tasks around the house. You can use their chores as an incentive, allowing them to use their screen time after they’ve completed their cleaning tasks. 

Be Accepting of Special Circumstances

There are some circumstances in which your child may go over their screen time, such as when they are over at a friend's house or if you are traveling. When your child is at another home, it is difficult to control how long they watch TV or play video games and you may need to just let go in these situations. It can be helpful to talk with your child after playing at a friend’s house to find out if they watched TV while at their house and try to keep the screens off for the rest of the day once they get home. If you will be traveling on a long flight or taking a long car ride, pack some travel friendly games to help limit screen time while on the go, but be willing to allow your child some additional screen time during these circumstances just in case. 

Benefits of Cutting Down on Screen Time

Cutting down on screen time can have tons of benefits for children and parents alike. Limits on screen time have been found to improve sleep quality, allow more time for exercise, improve emotional regulation, improved academic performance, and increased social engagement. Experts recommend maintaining screen time at no more than one to two hours per day for children over the age of two. 

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