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Wise Ways to Get Kids off Screens

By Sandy Schroeder

Parents are increasingly aware of the problems that excessive screen time can cause for kids. Disturbed sleep, poor social skills, obesity and behavioral problems have all been linked to too much screen time. Now parents want to know what to do next.

Carla Naumburg, PhD, a writer, speaker, clinical social worker and parent, takes a straight ahead look at the problems of kids and screens in psychcentral.com as she draws from her own experiences with two daughters, ages 7 and 9. She manages their screen time with these rules:

  • No screens in the morning or during meals
  • Limited screens on the weekend or a movie
  • One TV show, 30-minutes or less, 2 to 3 nights during the week
  • If sick or on a roadtrip, unlimited screen time

Naumburg says these rules work currently, but there are lots of protests, adjustments and negotiations that come up. She says she meets many parents who feel they have lost control of their kids’ screen time. Now they are looking for help.

Here are some ways to get started.

Model the screen behavior you want - Reducing screen time for your kids will be difficult if you routinely have the TV on in the background, check messages during meals or interrupt conversations to take calls. If you begin to dial back your screen time you may find you sleep better, have more open time and are talking more with your family.

Agree on the limits - If you and your spouse are monitoring the kids’ screen time, make sure you agree on the rules and they fit your family’s lifestyle. Work schedules, family time during the week -- and on the weekend -- may all affect screen time. Try to keep it fair and consistent so it is comfortable for everybody.

Talk about the plan with your kids - This will be a challenging moment for everyone. Bring it up when they are well-fed and not overly tired. Be prepared for protests and allow them to vent. In the same way you enjoy your screens, they do, too. Be honest as you explain why it’s good for everybody to limit screen time.

Make the rules stick - There may be a lot of wailing, but when you give in the battle will be lost, and you will have to start over again. Consider getting dumb phones for kids to make it easier to set limits on phone screens.

Redirect traffic - As the new rules sink in, your kids will need new activities to fill that missing screen time. Board games, art projects, outdoor time with gardening and sports, new hobbies or crafts, such as knitting or sculpting all work. Stock up on craft and art materials and keep adding new ideas.

As you work on the issue, be realistic. Screens are super addictive for all ages. Don't expect miracles, but do keep going. The results will be worth it.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Irvine, Calif.

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