How To Limit Screen Time For Kids?

How much screen time is ok for children?

Kid having screen time by playing video game
A child playing video game.An image by Kelly Sikkema

I am a stay at home mom living an urban life ,what that means is I am on my own unlike earlier times when people used to live in joint families and there was always someone or the other to supervise while the children played making sure they swallowed nothing, aren’t getting hurt – in short keeping them alive!

In today’s time I am the mom who cooks 3(sometimes 4) meals a day, supervises her child while he plays with the toys or other things at home, starting from bathing to dressing up yourself and your child, pampering yourself or your baby, feeding yourself to your baby – in short – you are on your own in this so called urban or city life. And then I see families where there is a presence of elderly grandparents who help out in raising up your child or house chores or even asking out if you need any help also makes a huge difference.

Enter pandemic and everything changes. Parents have moved back to their native places or forced to move due to travel bans or restrictions or visa changes or country-specified rules (what-all and what-not), schools, nurseries and daycares closed due to lockdowns, parents are supposed to work from home with a screaming child in the background, attend zoom meetings with a houseful show of sibling fighting going on in the background, meet deadlines while attending to chores as well because c’mon you need to eat right.

Clearly there is no difference between a weekday and a weekend, all thanks to Covid-19 going on. Every weekend looks the same as every weekday. Hauling your kid into the child seat and shoving down the breakfast down their throat as you have one eye on your laptop, trying to compose the perfect pitch-sales email to your client and hoping for some appreciation from your boss while in the back of your mind you are constantly thinking about the grocery list and if you have the complete ingredients to make today’s lunch because Duh!!! You gotta eat!!

So as soon as you finish the half-done job of making them eat little-to-nothing bits and pieces of breakfast here and there because you got to attend a very important meeting shortly – you are tempted to find that TV remote and switch on the idiot box so that just for few minutes (hopefully) your child gets glued on to the television set and you get some solace and peace to prepare and attend the meeting.

Tell me if this isn’t a common scenario in every household and especially after Covid-19?

I myself have put my 2 year toddler in front of TV just so that I could finish off some job in the kitchen or I am scared that he will get hurt. Resulting in me not completing the job nor getting any peace of mind. I was unaware of the whole situation until one day I decided not to turn on the TV and instead play with him because somehow it turned out to be a good day and I had chores done and had plenty of time in my hands. I realized huge changes in my son’s behavior and he just started throwing a tantrum to switch on the TV. I realized why it’s called an idiot box. My son was so addicted to it that he would even have his breakfast until I switched on the TV.

So the problem was very clear and I needed to find a solution to it because I cannot raise a boy who is glued onto the TV set majorly because it deeply impacts their growth and overall development.

Kid having screen time
Child playing on iPad, A picture by Kelly Sikemma

A report says 6 out of 10 health cases in the USA have reported of “screen-time fatigue” ever since the pandemic has started. So, guys, this needs to end or at least come up with a plan of some sensible screen time amount. WHO stresses on the fact that more than the amount of screen-time parents should also be very careful on the quality of programmers the children are viewing.

Ok, so having established the problem, here are my top three solutions which helped me cutting down the screen-time with my son:

Setting up Clear Boundaries :

Guys there are no alternate to being a parent. What you gotta do, you got to do.

I cannot stress this enough but the only thing which you can do is to set clear boundaries or if you feel your child has already gotten too much addicted to the TV set or mobile phone –take it away. It’s a strict no, let them cry or throw tantrum. They are also human beings; they will get tired and come around.

Communicate very clearly when they can watch it and for how much time, ask them if they have any favorite shows and only allow for that particular time.

After all this is for their own good. I am not going to talk about the negative effects of screen time because there are many compared to the pros. So just a strict no. Initial days would be very difficult but when they will understand the routine they will come around. The key is you have to be strong and not give in to their tantrums.

Divert them into another activity :

Family reading together
Family reading together, A picture by Ann Danilina

This method has helped me a lot. It is difficult but friends, parenting is not an easy task. As parents, we need to take some tough decisions and stick on to it for their future. If we need to raise responsible kids we need to pave the way.

I diverted my son’s attention into some activities which he liked or some days if I had time just playing or cuddling him. Kids crave for parent’s attention and that is one thing common among all the children. So give them all your attention and love as much as you can.

Gradually (and don’t be mistaken it took months to break the TV habit) my son understood the rhythm of the house and that he was allowed screen time only for some specific time periods and other times he needs to play by himself. Kids need to learn to play by themselves and be independent. I have written a blog on how to raise independent kids, please do check it out!

Lead by Examples
More often than not children imitate their parents or elders so it’s no use if you cannot control your own TV watching habits and expects your child to be a science genius.

Parenting is all about sacrifices. Knowingly or unknowingly we make sacrifices for our children- sometimes it might be our favorite food or show which we choose to forego just for them.

So guys before expecting anything from your child, yourself make intelligent decision of letting go of your own screen time habits and the rest will follow.

Well coming back to my son’s habits, it took days and days of persuasion, crying, screaming, soothing and the vicious cycle will go on again the next day and happily today I can say that he knows that screen time is a privilege and he cannot demand it, he needs to keep himself busy and he can only watch his shows in the specified time-periods. 

Fingers-crossed, hopefully the good behavior continues…..

Hope you liked the article, please do comment and let me know.

Signing off!

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