5 tips to get kids off their digital devices


Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/group-of-women-standing-on-green-grass-field-during-daytime-DqgMHzeio7g

Screentime for children is increasing dramatically and it’s getting harder to break the habit. A study from the UK in 2021 showed that children spend, on average, two hours and forty-five minutes per day online by the age of eight.

However, that time increases to nearly four hours by the age of twelve. 

Kids inherently want to play but, in the modern age, parents need a creative approach to ensure that play doesn’t happen on a screen. In conjunction with James Dooley from Soft Surfaces we look at five ways to help your family ditch their devices. 

Replace The Tablet With A Play Bag

Tablets, Nintendo Switches and other electronic devices are effective ways of keeping kids entertained while on the go. But having that much screen time at a young age might build an unhealthy habit. 

James suggests, ‘Instead of reaching for screens on the go, let your kids dive into a world of imagination with their own play bag. They pick the toys, from action figures to colouring books and bring them along for the ride. It gives kids the freedom to choose and engages them in the world around them. Whether it’s a trip to the store or a long car ride, these toys will spark your kid’s creativity and turn everyday moments into adventures.’

No WiFi Power Hour

The concept is simple yet impactful: designate a specific time each day to disable the WiFi in the household for an hour. This deliberate disconnection applies to all family members, in order to foster a shared experience and reinforce the importance of unplugging from digital devices.

During this time, encourage children to engage in offline activities, such as outdoor play with neighbours or a family trip to the park. By providing opportunities for physical activity and social interaction, parents can promote holistic development and reduce reliance on screens.

As James suggests, ‘Getting your children involved in ways to get off devices makes it seem less like you’re punishing them and more like you’re pursuing improvement for yourself and your family.’

Track Screen Time Together

Sit down together and determine the total duration of screen time permitted per day or week and the ideal length for each session. By involving everyone in the decision-making process, you promote a sense of ownership and accountability.

For older children equipped with personal devices, utilising screen time tracking apps can be beneficial in monitoring their usage patterns and ensuring adherence to established limits. Alternatively, for younger children, a visible poster or chart within the home can serve as a manual log for recording screen time activities. This visual aid not only facilitates awareness but also encourages mindfulness and self-regulation.

Explore Your Neighbourhood

Ever wonder why your kids prefer screens over outdoor play? It could be because they don’t know where to play outside. That’s where you come in! Spend some time with your children exploring your neighbourhood. Go further than you might usually to check out new parks, fields, sports areas, and playgrounds together.

‘Kids might get bored of the same old play spots, especially when screens offer endless entertainment,’ says James. ‘But by finding new places to play, you’re opening up a whole new world for them. It’s a chance to discover exciting adventures right in your own neighbourhood and reduce their screen time in a fun way.’

Make A Play Checklist

Every month, sit down with your child or children and make a list of fun things to do. Include board games, sports, playground games and anything else they love. These activities can change each month based on the weather, new toys, or new interests.

Make sure the list has a mix of playing alone, playing with friends, and playing with family. Turn it into a game to see who can check off the most items each month. And if they manage to check off everything, reward them with something special!

Screen Time study: Education Committee’s new inquiry into effects of screen time on education and wellbeing – Committees – UK Parliament

Chris Price