According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children under the age of six average about two hours of screen media a day, while children and teenagers (eight to 18 years old) average close to four hours of television screen time a day on top of two additional hours on the computer that doesn’t include schoolwork. This is on an everyday basis with school making up the majority of their day. So, with school holidays just around the corner (freeing up a lot more of their time), try our tips to encourage your kids to be more present as well as indulge in family bonding activities:
1. Set by example
This is a no-brainer but quite possibly the hardest. How many times have you found yourself staring at your phone while at the dinner table or when you’re supposed to be present with your family? Do your best to put your phone away when you’re home and if you must use your phone for work, make it a point to say, “Sorry, this is urgent as it is for work.” And once you’re done, put your phone away. That way, you’re making it clear to kids that you are using your phone for a reason as opposed to mindlessly indulging in screen time.
2. Put your phones away
Get a little container and before dinnertime, get everyone to place their phones inside it throughout the duration of dinnertime. While it may feel almost forced at first, rest assured, you’ll notice a difference in about two weeks.
3. Conversation cards
You’ve probably noticed cards with interesting topics that spark conversation at various eateries. Why not bring that idea into your home? Get everyone to prepare about 10 questions each and write them down on flashcards. Mix and shuffle them into a pile and place it at the centre of the table. This will ensure there won’t be stilted conversations or awkward silence throughout the hour.
4. Encourage sleepovers
Your kids are less likely to indulge in screen time when they are with friends (this often doesn’t work with siblings especially if there’s a large age gap). Borrow or invest in a tent (it can even be kiddy-sized) so your child and his or her friends can have an adventurous time – pretending they are camping outdoors in the comfort of your backyard.
5. Involve them
Hold a meeting with your kids (if they are old enough to hold a conversation) and allow them to give their input on the appropriate amount of screen time they think they should be getting. Negotiate with them. This way, they are probably more prone to keeping what is agreed upon as opposed to rebelling if they feel they’ve been strong-armed into something.