We have all heard the warnings about kids and screen time. Yet, recent statistics show that kids have been spending even more time with digital devices than they have in past years.
While there have been several articles that tell us that screen time is bad for our kids’ development and even their heath with greater risk of type 2 diabetes and other problems, nothing has changed.
Perhaps we don’t know what to replace the screen time with? Well, here are some great suggestions about activities you can redirect your children to when they ask for their favorite video or TV show.
1. Take a nature walk: This is a great way to get away from the temptation of a screen. It is also time that can be spent teaching our kids about the wonders of God’s creation. One of the best ways God has shown himself to us is through nature. By teaching our kids to look for him in creation we are strengthening their faith (and apologetic) and keeping them away from mindless entertainment.
2. Pick flowers: This can be done on a nature walk or all on its own. Our kids will still be able to witness the beauty in nature. Again, it is a good opportunity to teach them about God’s creation and how he is revealed in it.
3. Color together: Spending time working on a project together will help our kids learn co-operation and teamwork. It’s also a good time to bring out the kid in us. It also us an opportunity to simply talk with them, an opportunity we can use to find out more about their day or some challenges they are facing. We could also use it just to talk about dreams and hopes for the future. Either way, it helps bond us to our kids while showing them that they are worth spending time with.
4. Read books: This is one of my favorites. We are people of the book and therefore literacy is important for our understanding of God. This is time well spent whether you are guiding your child through an early reader book, looking deeper at some Bible stories, or simply enjoying a favorite book together. Studies show that our kids are better at picking up reading and writing skills if they are encouraged by their parents.
5. Head to the library: It is always fun to head out and get new material to read together. A word of caution here is that not every book available in the kids section lends itself to good reading. What I mean here is that there has been an unfortunate move to politicize kids books in recent years. There are countless books with content that does not reflect God’s moral values. Instead, they push a political agenda and try and get kids comfortable with ideas and behaviors that are not reflective of a Christian worldview. (Example, Strawberry Freckleface’s best friend has two moms.) While it is introduced subtly, it is still pushing a worldview that conflicts with Christianity. However, you can also use it as an opportunity to discuss these issues with your children.
6. Play games together: While this one works best with older kids there are some games that will interest children as young as four. You can even include playing toys in this one. My youngest loves building Lego creation and is always looking for new ideas. Why not pull out some of the games you remember from your childhood? The classics are still around: Monopoly, Trouble, Candyland, the list goes on and on.
7. Send them outside: This sounds easy enough. Turn off the screen and send them to the backyard to make up their own adventures. I find this works best if kids go out in groups, or at least more than one, particularly if they are younger. You may also want to invest in some good outdoor toys, like bubbles, chalk, tree houses, etc., to entice them outdoors and kick off their imagination. This can also include leaving early for school or staying later to give them extra time in the playground rather than rushing off.
There are also some ways that you can manage the time kids spend on their devices including:
1. Keep digital devices out of kids’ bedrooms: Televisions and computers should be kept in a common area where the time spent and the content accessed can be monitored.
2. Make a plan: You can set a limit on screen time such as allowing them 45 minutes each day. If your kids are old enough you could even hold a family meeting and decide together how much day per day should be allowed. Again, making it a team effort starts to teach them to be responsible with how much time they spend on their devices.
3. Make them earn it: A set number of minutes could be earned by the children by doing extra chores around the house. When my kids were younger they could earn 10 minutes for any extra effort they put in, but you could also use it to encourage good behavior like every time they share they can earn screen time. Then they can spend it when they want to but be sure there is still a daily limit or else you’ll find kids earning hours of time and using it up in one day.
It all comes down to engagement. The truth is, we often rely on screens when we need the kids distracted enough to allow us to get something done. Unfortunately, this can hinder them from learning things that they really need to learn. For example, it is always faster if the kids are not in the kitchen when a meal is being prepared. But the trade off is they don’t learn how to prepare meals and how much work goes into making our food.
Remember that the more time kids spend with screens, the less time they have for healthier activities. You will also find that if you start good habits when they are younger it will be easier to manage their screen time as they grow up.