Too Much Screen Time? Five Ways to Achieve Smart, Practical Screen Time Habits for Kids

The Homer Simpson line goes like this:

“We used to have trouble raising our kids, then we found out we could put them in front of the TV. That’s how I was raised and I grew up TV.”

All parents probably feel some measure of this. Screens can pacify kids, for hours. And there are very valid reasons to employ a phone, the TV, the computer to give kids something to do while we’re running errands, doing chores, making dinner, or just getting some quiet time for ourselves.

Then again, we’re parents (and teachers and karate instructors), and our kids are our responsibility. How do we strike a balance between no screen time and too much?

Here are five ways:

1) You Don’t Know What You Don’t Measure

Track Daily Screen Time. Start by measuring how much time your kids are actually spending in front of their screens. Do they wake up to a TikTok? Are they scrolling Instagram until they fall asleep? Are they on the phone during breakfast, during dinner? There’s no hard and fast rule, though experts say that more than two hours a day is too much. Keep an eye on when those screens start up and when they shut off for the day, and keep the two-hour recommendation in mind.

2) There’s a Time and a Place

Set Boundaries. This may be a stretch of an analogy, but in karate we spar. Sparring’s about getting points. To get a point, you have to land a strike (a punch or a kick). But it’s not a free-for-all all. There are limits, boundaries, rules that govern what kinds of strikes you can throw, how hard these strikes can land (or if they even have to land at all). It’s not violent, and it’s not fighting. But sparring has tons of energy and engagement, awareness and split-second decision-making.

Screen time limits can be similar. Screens are ok, but what are the rules? What can your kids watch? For how long? Consider when you want your kids to be fully engaged—at meal times with the family, for example. At these times the screens get put away. But maybe when they’re getting ready for school or after they just get home, a little screen time is allowed. This way, your kids don’t feel like you’re taking away their enjoyment, just making sure it fits in the flow of the other important activities of the day.

3) What They’re Viewing Matters

Create a Media Plan. This is the next step, and it involves a more intentional structure for your kids’ screen time. A media plan involves the ways kids experience screens. Are they watching a broadcast/cable video feed? Looking up specific creators on TikTok/YouTube? Purely consuming content or creating it themselves?

Professional photographers and musicians and martial artists curate their content consumption, subscribing to channels that teach them something about their craft. The everyday person in all of us seeks out content that’s specific to our interests, instead of just gazing at any given video stream for hours at a time. Kids can learn to do this too. Help them create playlists with content that you think is good (and fun) for them.

4) They’re Watching You!

Model Good Habits. It goes without saying, but your kids look up to you. They see what you’re doing, and they’re impressed by it. So if your phone is out at the dinner table or during homework review, they’ll think it’s normal. Try to be conscious about when and where you’re stuck in front of a screen and whether it would be better (and more engaging, more fun) to put that screen aside. Your kids will notice.

5) Real-Life: Like TV, But Better

Make Time for Social and Physical Activity. Parents of yesteryear used to always be saying “It’s a beautiful day, get outside!” By “outside,” we usually mean away from the couch or TV. It could be building a fort in the basement, playing soccer or violin, or practicing martial arts. It’s time playing with friends and family, running around, climbing trees. Real kid stuff.Like the other points on this list, making time for friends and fitness needs to be intentional. Set out an hour of time two or three days a week, put it on the calendar, and make sure you stick to it.

As hundreds of Ripple Effect families can say, two or three days of karate together can get the job done (with a ton of fun in the process). If you’d like to see how a black belt community can help your kids make healthier screen habits, start here for a free lesson.

Stay healthy black belts!

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