There’s no doubt we’re in the digital age.
There are screens everywhere.
I can’t pump gas, visit a doctor’s waiting area, or even have dinner in some restaurants without having a TV screen in my line of vision.
That doesn’t even take into account my smartphone, my children’s tablets and game systems, and my husband’s phone.
Even though I attempt to limit it, there’s a lot of screen time in my life. That means there’s lots of screen time in my kid’s lives, too.
I get it. This is the reality of the world today. And, as tempting as it is to keep them away from phones, tablets and TV forever, I also want my children to be equipped to survive all the technology around them.
As an online writer, I certainly see the benefit in having screen time. Without it, I wouldn’t have work!
But I’m also keenly aware of the side effects of constant screen time – not just for me but for my kids.
So, how do you find a balance?
Often it means setting limits on times and places it’s acceptable to have screen time. But how do you end kids’ screen time without tantrums, battles or under-the-breath muttering?
Although they aren’t foolproof, here are a few simple things you can do to make ending screen time easier.
3 Simple Steps To End Screen Time Without Fuss
When you ask your children to end their screen time, you’re often faced with unwillingness, delays or even tantrums. It’s easy to think they’re simply misbehaving.
But think about this. Has your TV suddenly lost its signal in the middle of your favourite show? Has your cellphone battery ever died, right in the middle of a conversation?
You might not throw yourself on the ground and scream (well, if it’s the big game you’re watching, you might!) because you have mature emotional regulation. But it is still extremely frustrating.
When you have been experiencing pleasure during screen time, an abrupt end can be hard for your brain to process. As human beings, when we’re absorbed in a film, a game, Facebook or any other screen activity, mentally we’re in another world.
Screens with lights, sounds, rhythm or images are essentially hypnotic for our brains. We feel good and we don’t want to stop. We don’t want a sudden change.
While we are mesmerised by screens, our brains are releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that relieves stress and pain.
When screen time is suddenly ended, the level of hormone drops fast. It’s almost like a physical shock, which, in our children, can lead to screaming, or meltdowns.
The good news is, it doesn’t always have to end in a battle.
Step #1: Enter Your Children’s World
When we give our children the 10, 5 and 1 minute warnings we think we’re giving them adequate time to process the upcoming change. However, when they respond with, “Uh huh. Okay”, they’re really in a different world
Instead, take a couple of moments to enter their world. A simple, “Hey, what are you watching?” might be enough for some children to open up to you.
For other children, you might need a more specific and engaging question if you are to enter their experience. “What level are you on? Which character are you?”
As well as being the first step towards a fuss free end to screen time, this is a great opportunity to bond. Generally, children love it when a parent takes interest in their activities. They enjoy having a parent interact with them in their own world.
Stay with them for a while, and ask a second or third question. When they answer your questions and interact with you, it means they’re beginning to come out of the mental world they entered with screen time. Your simple queries are gradually drawing them out.
Step #2: Prepare Them For The Next Activity
As you sit with them and ask about their activity, you can gradually prepare them for the next activity. Sure, it’s more than just ending screen time; there are multiple steps, but they take just a few moments and give you an opportunity to bond and avoid tantrums.
As they answer your questions about their activity, discuss what you’ll be doing next. Maybe it’s meal time, or perhaps you’re getting ready to leave, or it might be time to start your bedtime routine.
Whatever is coming up next, start to discuss it. Because you’ve slowly brought them back to reality before attempting to move on to something else, your children are more likely to hear you and begin to process the upcoming transition.
Without engaging and drawing them back to reality, your switch to a new activity comes with a sudden shock, regardless of how many warnings you give.
Step #3: Step Away From Screen Time – And Enjoy!
Now your children are engaged, drawn back to reality, and prepared for the next activity, you can step away from the screens together.
Rather than experiencing a sudden shock, children are gently (though still quickly if needed) drawn away from the screen. This transition avoids the rapid drop in hormones that can lead to tantrums, screaming, and the stubborn behaviour of refusing to move on.
Sometimes, children are so happy their parents are engaging with them, they don’t need much convincing to step away from the screen. Most children love close and personalised attention. You probably try hard to give them attention quite often, but when you do so by engaging in their interests, they are more likely to notice your efforts.
Why Is It Important To Step Away From Screen Time?
Obviously, children have school and bedtime. But is it necessary to limit screen time at other times?
In short, yes. Having limits on their access to screens is a vital part of children’s development.
Educational TV, video games, and social apps can be a part of a healthy child’s life. In moderation. However, too much can actually be quite dangerous, especially for developing brains.
To learn more about the importance of limiting screen time, be sure to read these BellyBelly articles:
- Speech Delays Linked To Technology Use
- Smartphones And Teen Suicide – 5 Things Parents Need To Know
- What Young Children Look Like While Watching TV
We also recommend learning more about the digital age and the impact it has on us, our children and society. You can learn more by checking out The Center For Humane Technology.