You ask your child a question, but they’re distracted by a game on their phone. You check to see if they did their homework, but find them their third hour of iPad play. Kids and screen time are becoming a huge topic (and pain point) amongst parents and experts.
If these scenarios sound familiar, you’re not alone. According to a Gallup poll, kids ages 2 to 10 spend around 19 hours per week on screens. They also spend 15 hours engaging in child-led indoor play. Once they reach nine years of age, they’re spending twice as much time on indoor screen-based play than indoor screen-free play.
Increased screen time has been linked to things like: a higher risk of obesity, worse and less sleep, poor school performance, and even something called Internet Gaming Disorder. These kinds of consequences don’t end in childhood. They can seriously inhibit your kids’ future performance in college, their financial skills, and interpersonal skills as an adult.
Worried? So are a lot of parents—including parents that work in tech themselves. Not only are these long hours shocking at face value, they’re also well above expert-recommended sums.
Encourage your kids to engage in screen-free, unstructured play has plenty of benefits. Parents surveyed by Gallup found that screen-free play was linked to problem-solving, self-confidence, and discipline. These aren’t just important developmental markers—they’re key components of building up a healthy financial life as an adult. So the next time you notice your kids eyes have been stuck to their screen for hours, don’t just turn it off. Encourage them to have fun in other ways.
Here are three things that can help you decrease your child’s screen time:
Role Model Healthy Screen Behavior
Lead by example by doing things like putting your phone away during family time—and setting boundaries like no screens at mealtime or on car rides, are good first steps.
Simply recommending that your kids turn off their screens won’t be as effective as recommending a specific activity. 31% of kids say they need guidance finding things to do when they’re not playing with screens.
Suggest Alternatives To Screen Time
Depending on your kids’ age, there are plenty of potential activities they can engage in. Next time they reach for their phones or tablets, suggest other fun alternatives indoors or outdoors. If the weather’s nice and you live in a kid-friendly neighborhood, try unstructured outdoor play. Toss a baseball, invite kids’ friends over to play on the swings, or play in the sandbox.
You can try easy indoor play activities like a paper airplane competition to baking cookies or healthy treats. Try making clay beads for homemade necklaces. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, there’s nothing wrong with letting kids get bored for a little while. See what they come up with.
inherQuests has found that when it comes to play, kids value spending time with their parents. Try participating in games and activities, and they’ll be more willing to try out different things.
Learning Activities Can Be Fun, Too
In addition to unstructured play, kids aren’t sufficiently engaged in education-oriented play. Kids ages 6 to 10 spend 5 to 6 as much times on screen-based play as screen-based educational activities. The numbers are even worse for non-screen-based educational activities (including homework!).
If your kids associate learning with homework, they might not be thrilled to be asked to engage in educational activities. You can reorient this type of learning-centered play around fun. Think: science experiments with homemade slime, logic-based board games, or introducing new hobbies. Inherquests’ experiential financial literacy games are all about fun, too. They include all types of games and real-life experiences such as sticking to a grocery budget at the store or exploring lifestyles and money attitudes.
Screens aren’t all bad. Preparing your kid for a competitive, technology-based workplace environment down the line is crucial to their later financial success (and happiness!). But setting healthy boundaries, especially when your kids are younger, is healthy. And kids have years of time to fill, on and off screens. Taking a break and turning to other activities when they are little is important.