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Digital Detox for kids: Time to turn it off?

Cutting down on screen time for kids might feel like an overwhelming task. However, it is an essential step to make for the wellbeing and development of your child. There will be tantrums and frustration, but it passes much quicker than what you might imagine. It is almost the same for all ages including adults. Once you start changing the routines, things will look totally different. You can start by setting an example. New research suggests that one effective step you can take right now is to set an example for your child by putting down your phone, turning off the TV or closing your laptop.

What changes should you expect after cutting down screen time:

  • Longer concentration and better attention span 
  • Decreased boredom. 
  • Improved quality of play and increased duration of independent play 
  • Enhanced ability to invent/create own playing scenarios.
  • Reduced negative energy outbursts.
  • Easier to settle at bedtime.

 Before you start:

  1. Set up a realistic target for screen time: (zero time is always an option) you need to take into consideration the age of the child, peer pressure, availability of other activities, and how screen time is used. You can always adjust this as you go but you need to get something to start with.
  2. Equally important is when your kid is allowed to use his screen time. Avoid early mornings and around bedtime especially for younger kids.
  3. Where is also important, I would suggest avoiding bedrooms and especially beds as a place to have screen time. Let the place be a part of the routine along with the duration and the time.
  4. With older kids, it would be a good idea to define the purpose of use to avoid situation such “I have a homework or need to reply to my friends or teacher” etc..
  5. Talk to your partner. You need to have a united front, no hesitation. Take your time to discuss the ramifications. You could be on for a tough couple of weeks.
  6. Create a gap-filling plan to distract your child and entertain them. Do not have a full-time plan and leave time for boredom. Kids need to feel bored to improve their creativity. So, embrace boredom as a way to help your child development.

Remember the hard phase does end! And the results are really rewarding and worth the effort.

How to start:

Remember the goal is to reduce screen time and get the kids accepting that life exists outside their screens. At the end they should stop nagging and complaining about lack of screen time and enjoy the other activities. How to go about it?

Make sure your strategy is adequate to your child personality. None knows your child better than you. Like in all addiction, your kid will genuinely suffer when cut off from their screen. You should be prepared for tantrums, arguing and mutiny ( at all ages). The way your kid responds to authority and respects boundaries and directive could be a good hint about how you start.

Some people go “cold turkey”. They Turn it all off to get the kid’s system reset. Then introduce it once they deem it appropriate (Usually after a week or so). Of course, this is not an exact science, you should keep an eye on the withdrawal of your child and make sure he is engaging in the activities you planned to fill the time. This could be a bit harsh especially on older kids who might not be easily swayed to change their habits.

Most people gradually reduce screen time till they reach their optimal target. I suggest cutting down the screen time by half in the first week. Then another half by the second week. This will bring the screen time to 25% of the initial time. This could substitute an excellent baseline. You can then adjust the time (up or down) till you reach your target.

Either way, you must be firm. Stay strong and do not give in to any emotional blackmail or tantrums.

It is time to turn it off

Dealing with Boredom:

  • Allow them time to innovate and discover what they can do by themselves. Do not rush to help every time they seem stuck. They will surprise you. Be prepared to answer, “I don’t know” when asked “what can I do?”
  • De-clutter. It might be counter intuitive but lots of toys can block creativity and increase boredom. Kids can’t keep track of what they have and most toys will go unused for log times (forever many times). The solution is very simple, you can read our post about toy rotation.
  • Make sure you have craft material and block toys around in a visible and accessible way.
  • In your gap-filling activity plan, make sure to include some innovative activities not based on preset rules/material/toys. Kids will get the idea and they will start innovating.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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