Screen Time

Why Screen Free Time Is Good For The Whole Family

Over the festive season I went three whole days without turning on my laptop and it felt amazing. I can’t remember when last I made it through even one day without turning on my laptop.

Have you ever had a look around a restaurant at all the families and couples? Do that next time you go out and you will probably see what I see. Family members seated around the same table with nobody interacting and each person glued to their own screen, couples out for a “romantic” evening totally cut off from each other.

I find it sad to see, and while I have a no screen time at meal times rule, my family still has quite a lot of screen time, like I am sure many families do in this hi-tech world we now find ourselves in.

I work online from home which makes it hard to escape from my screen. My kids love watching TV and they each have their own tablets and smart watches.! I’m dreading the day they want their own phones!

There are so many devices with screens available now – from our TV’s which have been around for many years to smart phones, computers, laptops, tablets and e-readers. In addition to so many devices being available with screens, the places where screens are available have increased too.

Chances are high that if you work, you are sitting in front of a computer at work all day. If your children are not learning on a tablet at school by now they sure will be soon, this is the way of the future.

I remember when I was growing up my mother used to limit our TV time, but now there are screens everywhere and this is just going to increase as time goes by.

Why Screen Free Time Is Goof For The Whole Family

Why Screen Free Time Is Good For The Whole Family

  1. The Importance Of Quality Family Time

It is so important for families to spend uninterrupted time together without the distraction of any screens. It will be just about impossible to get to know what your kids have been up to, whether something is bothering them and how they are coping at school if you don’t sit and chat regularly with your children.

The same goes for your partner, relationships take hard work and you can’t do that from behind a screen. You need to interact face to face with your partner and very often there is only a short space of time to do this in.

It is important to give your children your full attention and not be stuck to your phone when you do things with them. This will show your children that they matter and that you love spending time with them.

It is important to have healthy and close relationships within the family. Limiting screen time is a great way to help you to achieve this.

  1. Healthy Sleeping Habits

Too much screen time, especially just before bed is not conducive to healthy sleep. In order to ensure that your family sleeps well it is essential to make bed time routines screen free. Consider healthier alternatives such as reading to your children.

Screen time before bed doesn’t only affect your children’s sleep negatively, it has the same effect on adults. Ensure that you have one hour of screen free time before you go to bed too.

Screen time bedtime

  1. Outdoor And Active Time

Screen time usually equals sitting still indoors and children should be active and outdoors. There is nothing better than children playing out in nature! Truth be told the same goes for adults.

Encouraging your children to be outdoors and to leave the screens behind will most likely make for a much healthier and happier child.

  1. Time For Other Healthy Interests

While there is nothing wrong with a bit of screen time it can become all consuming for some kids and for many adults too. It is important to make sure that there is time for other interests too.

It is great for kids to try out new sports and hobbies – limiting screen time will make this possible.

  1. Excessive Screen Time Is Not Healthy

Too much screen time can actually damage the brain. Many children suffer from sensory overload, a hyperaroused nervous system and a lack of restorative sleep due to excessive screen time.

Your child’s brain is still developing and it could be dangerous to expose your child to too much screen time. Screen addiction is becoming more and more common with brain scans research finding gray matter atrophy, compromised white matter integrity, reduced cortisol thickness, impaired cognitive function, cravings and impaired dopamine function.

Computer tablet screen

Tips For Having Screen Free Family Time

Now that we know why screen free time is good for your family here are some tips and ideas for limiting screen time and having time when the whole family has screen free time together.

  1. Screen Free At Meal Times

Meal times are when families get together at the end of each day. This is the perfect time to connect with your partner and your children and to have a lovely relaxing time together. Making a rule that there are no phones or tablets at the table is a brilliant plan. Make sure the television is always turned off too.

  1. Limit The Amount Of Screen Time For Children

Decide how much daily screen time you feel is appropriate for your kids and set limits for time spent on tablets, phones and watching television. This will leave plenty of time available for your children to pursue other hobbies, to interact with people one on one and to get things done such as homework and household chores.

  1. Make Use Of A Family Tracker App

An easy way to keep track of everyone’s device activities is to download a family tracker app such as Family Orbit. This will enable you to monitor your children’s phone activities, locate your child real time, lock or unlock your child’s device instantly and block any dangerous websites or apps.

Downloading a parental app will be very useful for controlling screen time as well as making sure that you are controlling and ensuring your child’s safety online.

Family Screen Time

  1. Plan Screen Free Family Activities

Plan some outdoor activities to do with your family on weekends and during school holidays such hiking, camping and beach days. Make sure that everyone leaves their devices at home.

During winter months when the weather may be too cold and wet to spend time outdoors you can make family nights at home where you can play games and do activities without any devices being present.

  1. Keep Devices For Certain Times

There are certain times when it would not be appropriate for your children to have any screen time such as just before bed. Make sure that your children know what times they can and can’t use their devices.

To make it easier for everyone to stick to the screen free times it is a great idea to keep a basket somewhere and all family members can put their devices in the basket at the times they should be screen free and they can collect them when it is appropriate to use their devices.

 

Check Also

Dad kissing newborn baby

12 Baby Bonding Tips for New Dads

Research has shown that babies recognise familiar sounds or voices from when they are still …

24 comments

  1. I can relate to this article on so many levels. We have 7 year old in the house and he is constantly either on Youtube or the Xbox or on his tablet. On weekdays we limit his screen time and focus more on reading books. Its difficult even for us as parents as we are always checking our mobiles for messages and Facebook. We even take the phone to the toilet?. This is definitely one of my areas that I will be working on this year as I am guilty of the fomo?

    • Kim that fomo can really be worked on and it is amazing how much more time and energy you have when you are not online and checking all your social media channels. Even though I work online I try to stay away from social media as much as possible, yes I know it may sound strange for someone that has a Facebook page of about 58 000 fans! It just becomes too much, now I probably spend much less time on social media than other people do!

      Thankfully my kids still prefer to play outside and really engage a lot in imaginative play, but I can see them wanting to watch Youtube videos and playing on their tablets more often. This is something I am going to have to limit in the coming years. I’m dreading the day when I must consider getting my kids their own phones!

      • I’d love to learn more about how you reduced your social media time, especially when working online and having a large following! And thank you for the recommendation for the Family Tracker. Our children use iPads as one part of their homeschool, but it’s so easy to have the devices take over a good part of our day! We’re going to schedule more family game nights too.

        • I manage to do it using Social Jukebox which is an online tool for sharing things to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – when I publish evergreen content I add it to my Social Jukebox to continue to be shared over and over again. Then I use Tailwind for Pinterest to boost my Pinterest reach and it saves me so much time and effort. On Facebook I have am automatic message system set up for anyone that inboxes my page so that they are directed to my website and my email address is given for certain requests. I know that since they get an immediate response which is automated I don’t have to stay logged in all day, I can just check once a day and respond to any requests.

  2. I’m also quite fond of my phone and like to know what is going on in the world of social media and you know…we must have the fastest internet line because you do not want to wait for downloads.

    My parents live on a farm in the Koekenaap area and we visited them last year between Christmas and new year. I thought ok granny will play with the kids and mommy can have some alone time which entails…laying in front of the TV with my cell phone, checking social media. My word!! I gave up the first day! the internet connection was s slow it could not even open the apps. I was “forced” to play with granny and the kids and it was amazing. We went for long drives on the farm etc and just spend quality time together.

    Luckily my boy loves being outdoors. On hot days I need to beg him so just stay inside and watch a little bit of TV. Lynne I’m also dreading the day when he wants to have his on phone and being part of social media. It’s such a scary world out there.

    Very good article to read!

  3. I try to screen free parent , it’s tough . My toddler loves watching tv but if I plan an activity outside she is more than willing to engage. I also put my phone away when I enter the house and then just check it every now and then for messages. I also read that it’s very important to communicate to your child what you are doing with your phone, so they are not just seeing passive interaction, for e.g. I’m just looking up the recipe for tonight’s supper or I am responding to an email,

  4. I find that I’m constantly having to check myself and my husband with the amount of times we spend in our phones
    Our LB has no phone or tablet interaction, but does watch one or two shows maybe on a Saturday morning when we are cleaning the house.
    He much prefers to touch and play than sit and watch,which is great because we are both arty and love to build and create.

  5. No screen time during dinner- there is actually research that shows families who dine in front of the television loose out on bonding, communication and interaction with their children. Sitting around a table to eat teaches little ones social skills, interaction with adults and siblings, it teaches empathy and how to support your loves ones. It makes little ones feel important to share their day whilst their whole family listens. These are things money can’t buy- all the more reason to have a traditional sit down meal at least once a day.

  6. As a Speech Therapist, this is a very valuable article for parents to read. I have read numerous studies that illustrate how detrimental technology can be to a child’s development. I see so many kiddies for therapy that are allowed to play on their own tablets or laptops whenever they want for as long as they want. These are generally Afrikaans kiddies from Afrikaans families living in Afrikaans towns and attending Afrikaans schools. And you know what? They can’t speak Afrikaans! They speak fluent American, though. And the ones subscribed to BBC apps have more of a British accent.

    I have a daughter, and she watches a lot of movies and can speak along to some of them, but it does not affect her mother tongue, which is Afrikaans. Mommies, listen to your kiddies when they speak your home language. If they pronounce their words with the typical American “twang”, use strange sentence structures when speaking a language other than English, and seem to be able to say a lot more than they can understand, perhaps you should review your technology rules at home.

    Don’t get me wrong, I often put on a movie just to have some time to read a magazine or do some admin, and, as with many things, this is okay in moderation, but please know when this affects your child. Remember, those little brains are like sponges – they absorb everything they hear and see. It is up to us to decide what they are exposed to.

  7. I have to agree with this article as dinner time is family time and it’s the one time of day when the whole family comes together for dinner. Eating together can improve parent-child relationships, and give kids a sense of stability and connectedness.

    I am very lucky that my son shows no interest in TV at this time. But I do know that will change as he gets older.

  8. We limit our screen time at home. Usually when the little one gets home from school she is allowed to watch a show or two in order to relax. Then we watch a little more after bath time (together as a family)
    We always try to do lots together, even during the busy week days, we always eat dinner together at the table and then chat for a while then take a 10 minute walk around our neighbourhood. Sometimes i dont always feel up for the walk but our little one gets us up and going, she will not take NO for an answer lol

  9. Screen time seems attractive to the kids, but I tend to feel that when the screen goes on the hearing goes off. Over weekends the screen time only comes when the chores are done and I am happy that they have done what is necessary.

    I may not be a popular mom when their favourite programme comes on but I feel that screen time definitely needs a ‘limit’.

    I do find that when other incentives fail, use of their music players or tablets comes in as a valuable tool when I need it.

  10. I have always tried to limit Screen time for my kid, however when he got home from aftercare all he would want to do is down and watch Cartoons, gradually I used to change the channel or ask him to help out with simple chores and for almost a year now he is in a new routine, he gets home, helps out, has a bath some play time with his pets, and just before sleep time he is watches an episode on National Geo channel, which for the past 2 weeks was on snake catching, and prior to that was the big cats.
    He actually has disciplined himself and he does watch cartoons but at school or on weekends.
    He did learn a lot from the screen time that he does get after school to so works in my favour.

  11. My one daughter loves the tv. We removed screen time. It was the best thing that we could do for her. She is not as aggresive as she was, and she also tends to listen and do her chores like putting washing in the basket more often. Thank you for the article.

  12. Thanks for a great and well balanced article. Even though we’re all probably guilty of too much screen time, the truth is that we cannot escape the reality and often the necessity thereof today! I do however feel strongly that we as parents have to impose strict rules and guidelines to our young children regarding the use of the various devices as well as age appropriate supervision and not be ignorant of the current studies regarding the risks and dangers of being exposed to RF radiation, especially to toddlers and young children. Let’s face it, how many teenagers do not carry their smartphones in their back or front pockets, much closer than the recommended safe distances! Not to mention the dangers or psychological trauma of accidental exposure to unwanted content. There is a wonderfully insightful book and DVD available called Digital Cocaine by Brad Huddleston which expands on this and many other enlightening fact, without de-valuating technology. So I guess at the end of the day, it all boils down to responsibility. Our responsibility as parents to guide, supervise, teach and protect our children from the pitfalls of progress while at the same time enjoying and benefiting from the rapidly growing phenomena called Technology! 🙂

  13. Yes, tv my nightly babysitter… We’re also trying to find the healthy balance between screen time and outdoor and family time, and some days we get it, and other days Paw Patrol is on for 4 hours straight! But I really enjoyed your article, and agree with everything that you’ve written.

  14. wow where is this generation of technology taking us to? Where were the days when you sat in front of the window on a rainy winters day and the ants literally entertained you. When I tell my kids this story they laugh at me. I kind of laugh at myself as well. I used to sit for hours playing and observing ants because it was too wet and cold to venture outside. I found it so fascinating to sit and watch them carry food to their homes or all of them just rushing off somewhere. Running each other over and even having a fight or two. My imagination would just run wild. Nowadays all kids and adults want to do is run their own rat race with technology. I find myself constantly fighting with the kids add hubby to put the tabs, laptops and phones away. I always end up having to do things by myself because they prefer their screen time above anything else. We recently went away on holiday… we stayed on a lovely farm. Beautiful scenery, the weather was perfect. I had it all planned out on what we would and possible could do on our break away from the busy city life. We arrived at our little cottage, inspected the place and we all agreed that it was heaven! We cooked supper together, sat on the stoep and listened to the beautiful sounds of the night. That didn’t last long… one by one they got up and went to their own little space and took out their techno gadgets and we were back to square one. I left them to their own devices that night and promised myself that the next day we would explore our surroundings and there would be no screen time. The next few days came and it went, with me turning out to be the one who ruined their holiday. We ended up going home all stressed out and me feeling guilty for ruining the holiday. I cant go on like this… Thank you for your inspiring article. I now have something that I can implement in my own home. Wish me luck guys!

    • Gayle I totally understand and while it is all good and fun to write an article about what we should be doing it is not always easy implement it is it? When we go away now we don’t bring any tech except for my hubby’s and my phone… and what a bonus if there is no reception LOL.

      I’ve actually started looking forward to researching out of the way places with no reception, we have found a lovely little place that we are going to try out this winter, a little cottage up the mountain where there is no reception – nothing but nature!

  15. Screen time is always a hot topic in our home! Both my husband and four year old son love watching movies and gaming.
    However, hubby and I are coming to agreements we can both live with slowly over time. We have definitely noticed the impact that the amount of screen time, the content of what he is watching or games he is playing, as well as the time of day that he is using a screen (e.g. in the hour or two before bedtime) has on our son’s behaviour and even his ability to manage his emotions. We have found that when we don’t get the balance right we end up with an explosive little boy who has frequent meltdowns.

    Thank you for these guidelines and the ideas that have come up in the comments thread are also very helpful.

  16. Thank you for that much needed article it’s so true we are losing touch with each other also too much screen time brings on frustration stubbornness insecurity between spouses children are unhealthy and I’ll because they are inside no exercise I have tried the no fines no tv while having supper it worked for just so long taking my son’s tablet during school days but my daughter is glued to the screen she is 9 even walking out of a room her eyes are fixed on the screen help my son and my youngest play with the dogs in the evening even they are happy I will try again with your wonderful ideas thank you once again

  17. We have a 7 year old in the house, and this is so true! I have to draw him away from his tablet or the television to do homework! Well until about 2 weeks ago. He is now in Grade 2 and gets a lot of homework! I work fulltime and I study trough Unisa, so we do have a very busy lifestyle! My husband is a teacher at our local primary school, so he is not always there to help. My children stays at my mother in-law in the afternoons until I go home around at half past 4. Well, with that explained, my mother in law is not keen at al to help him with his homework and it’s easier for her to put on the television so that the children can get out of her hair. especially in winter time! then they can not go for a swim outside. So I would like to put blame on her, but will also not do that.

    I have put my foot down and now I write every evening his homework that has to be done in his homework book for the next day. I spoke to my mother in-law and asked her to not put on the television until his homework is done. It goes very well , but when he is done it is television all the time until I get home from work. So now in the evenings he have to read or play with his brother, but NO television in the evenings.

    It is not always easy but it can be done with some effort!

  18. I used to use the television to distract my children while I tried to get some work done, but we kept noticing how screen time (whether television or computer/phone) seemed to affect their behaviour. I didn’t know how I was ever going to get anything done, but eventually it got to a point where we had just had enough. A friend said she tries not to let her children watch television during the week, so I tried this as well and it has actually worked really well. I just feel such a relief knowing that they are not going to start acting up because I’ve let them watch for too long. And somehow, the work still gets done, simply because it has to! Squeezing it in during naps and at night is not always easy though!

    I find I do still let the watching go on for too long during weekends – it is just so convenient sometimes to have a break!

    I have also realised that I am probably too attached to my phone. Sometimes I think back to when I was younger, before cell phones became common in SA, and I can’t believe how we all managed without phones!

Leave a Reply