Worried that your summer is going to be filled with way too much screen time as school-free kids loll away the hours on devices? There is no shortage of advice out there on how to limit screen time, from marble jars to score cards to apps that even let kids accrue screen-time for minutes spent exercising. But how much of it actually works? For most parents, the only thing more annoying than trying to speak to a kid dazed on too much Minecraft is the endless negotiating about whether another iPad session is on offer — or not. Ready to start arguing less and instituting strategies that work? Here are a few data-backed ways to keep screen-time in check.
Nix the 2-Minute Warning
Just how many times have we given our kids that helpful, “Screens off in two minutes!” reminder? What could be more reasonable, more respectful? Surprise: A University of Washington study has found that those well-intentioned warnings actually cause more meltdowns. Yikes. Researchers found that whether it was a phone, tablet or TV made no difference, that the 2-minute warning set kids off. So what didn’t set them off as much? Agreed upon routines. Kids were less upset when the end of screen time was expected and predictable. Just 30 minutes of YouTube on Friday nights? As long as the rule was consistently applied, kids had fewer meltdowns.
Opt for Screen-Free Days, Not Hours
Researchers have also discovered that instituting screen-free days (as opposed to screen-free times of day) may be easier for some kids to accept, and may cause less of the constant negotiating between parents and children. They emphasize that routine is the key, and that parents need to follow through on agreed-upon rules. A screen-time Sabbath? For some families, it’s a less-fraught option. Even so, NY Times editor KJ Dell’Antonia found that her week-day ban on screen time did have a rebound effect on weekends, when her four kids would often make up for lost time — and them some.
Less friction was encountered when technology itself could be blamed for the end of screen time. The same University of Washington researchers discovered that kids put up significantly less of a fight when issues such as dying batteries and poor Wi-Ffi were to blame.