While much of our lives revolve around digital media (cell phones, television, computers etc.) it is understandable that the concept of becoming “unplugged” may seem very difficult.
With children and adolescents, it seems impossible but through small steps, it is quite achievable.
Reducing the amount of screen time for children and adolescents on digital media has proven to be beneficial for social, occupational, and academic functioning.
Here are a few tips parents and individuals can work on to become less dependent on screen time:
(1) Earn It
Earning screen time makes it much more valuable to the child or adolescent. Having expectations (chores, behavior, school) for them to meet each week in an attempt to earn their screen time is a fantastic behavioral modification technique. Once screen time is earned, parents should designate certain days during the week where screen time is permitted. This is most commonly reserved for Friday after school or during the weekends. For younger children, keep screen time to a minimum and have a visual chart that can be update with stickers or anything that represents success.
(2) Suggest Alternatives
Suggesting alternatives to screen time is another way to reduce the amount of time children and adolescents spend on digital media. Allowing participation in an activity other than screen time for a longer duration of time is a great bargaining chip for parents. For example if 30 minutes of screen time is a reward, perhaps 1-2 hours of time spent with friends is more attractive. Doing so will promote healthy social behavior and also provide a healthier, more attractive reward for good behavior.
Sports are one of the best ways to meet peers with similar goals and interests. Sports promote a healthy lifestyle, a platform for healthy social interaction, and physical activity that the majority of Americans do not get. Participation in sports can be wielded as a reward as children and adolescents develop a part of their identity through achievements outside of the classroom, away from social media, and on the sports field. Start early and promote as much participation in it as possible.
(4) Family Time
Most families cannot remember the last time they had family dinner together. It is a lost tradition that allowed for children and adolescents to see that their parents are capable of conversing about anything besides school. During family time, parents can offer where they go, what they do (dinner, movie etc.) and when they go as a reward for good behavior. Being engaged in an activity with their parents is something that is very rare these days and can serve as the foundation for healthy communication between parents and children.
(5) Tie It All Together
Incorporating all of these tips in reducing or eliminating screen time is a step in the right direction. Children and adolescents crave interaction with others and social media is the fastest, easiest way for them to do it. Unfortunately, it is not the healthies. Setting parameters for behavior and rewards for good behavior that result in healthy social development are highly recommended. Implementation will take time and small tweaks over time will result in big changes!
Have questions or concerns about technology issues related to children or youth? Need support?
Please contact our counseling team to get help and support for your mental health challenges or needs.
Photo credit: Mayra Ruiz-McPherson via ruizmcpherson