The war against screen time!

Amid the Covid 19 pandemic we are all spending a lot more time at home, which naturally means an increase in the usage of screen time for everybody!

Now don't get me wrong there are some pros to screen time!

The iPad/ tablet (other brands are available) can in fact be our saviour! Technology has made it possible to have lots of fun, educational activities that focus on skill building and learning on portable devices!

Tablets have also been particularly beneficial for the development of communication apps giving many children a voice!

If you have a child that struggles to sit or wait it can be very a useful tool, it's also a great motivational reward, and let's face it we all need a little time to ourselves occasionally – whether it be to cook dinner or wash your hair and what better way to occupy the children!!!

But when does screen time become a problem?!

It is safe to say, many of you will have also witnessed the monster this wonderful device can evoke in our children causing both tears and tantrums! Behaviours which may challenge can often occur when the iPad is finished, unavailable or simply needs charging – particularly if a lot of screen item is allowed!

Unfortunately for some, a lot of screen time can also impact on learning new skills, such as acquiring social skills and playing with others.

Technology is also not great for developing generalised skills for example a child may be able to match on an iPad but not with pictures or objects.

Repetitive playing of the same game will give you some peace and quiet and provide down time for your child, but let's face it overall, it is probably not contributing to their learning.

Screen time close to bed can also impact on sleep for some children.

However, it's fair to say that removing screen time all together or decreasing it drastically is also not the answer as this could lead to behaviours which may challenge and generally be quite stressful for all involved!

  1. So here are some of my tips to successfully reducing screen time gradually throughout the day…
  2. Create a daily schedule or routine - incorporating screen time; a consistent schedule or routine shows your child what to expect throughout the day – visual supports may help with this such as a now and next board or activity schedul
  3. Include a variety of activities in your daily routine / schedule - including interactive activities and independent activities that your child enjoys and can complete.Once your child has other activities scheduled, they may become less interested in screen time and begin to show preferences to other activities. This provides the opportunity to further decrease screen time!Remember to initially reinforce engagement with other activities with praise and rewards3.Limit screen time to windows of time when social activities are not possible - for example allowing time on tablet or computer whilst making dinner
  4. Place preferred activities after less preferred activities - so screen time can become more of a reward for completion of less preferred activities, such as brushing teeth or finishing dinner.
  5. Use a timer to indicate duration of screen time (visual timers are best) - your child should know how long they can play - a timer can be used for this.You could also set an alarm on the device so when it sounds it means finished.
  6. Decrease screen time gradually - a good way to do this is by selecting certain activities to incorporate throughout the day where screen time is unavailable and building these up gradually – a visual schedule can help support this.
  7. Replace screen time before bed with a calming activity - screen time before bed can interfere with sleep for some - you could replace screen time with a calming activity like reading, listening to relaxing music or a massage.
  8. Although not technically reducing screen time …. An iPad or tablet has multiple interaction features that can encourage your child to sit with you and share a game or story.In this way they will share the reinforcing activity with you building up your relationship and working on sharing the device.
  9. Most importantly remember to praise your child – for accepting their new scheduled activities and accepting that screen time is not available – enjoy your iPad free time together!
  10. Lastly - Say what you mean and mean what you say! No means no - so ride out that tantrum and stick to your guns!

Good luck soldier and may you be victorious in the war against screen time!

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