TOLEDO, Ohio — For the past year, kids have relied on tablets, computers and phones for learning, socializing and entertainment more than ever before, making it nearly impossible for parents to enforce screen time rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But now that school is out for the summer, parents may notice that the challenge has become easing them off those devices.
However, pediatrician Dr. Jean Moorjani from Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children says that can be tough since the line between work and play has blurred.
"Media comes in so many different forms and flavors now that it's really more about how kids are consuming screens and can parents be involved with them."
Still, weening kids off those hours and hours of screen time is important because too much screen time can lead to issues like sleep problems and obesity.
"Every minute sitting down in front of a screen, that's one fewer minute where kids aren't playing or being active," said Dr. Moorjani.
So for starters, parents should set rules on how much time can be spent on screens each day; that includes phones, tablets and computers.
But you'll also want to consider why they're online because if they're using screen time to keep in touch with family members that you may not be able to visit or are far away, then that shouldn't count towards their daily screen time allowance.
Parents should also try and find something else to occupy their time, like a board game, or a walk down to the park. Engage with them, create screen-free zones in your home and say no to screen time during meals or right before bed.
It's also important to assert yourself as the parent without having the reduction in screen time come across as a punishment.
You can achieve that by sitting down with them and explaining what you expect from them.
"All of these things are privileges, right?" said Dr. Moorjani. "If you have a TV, if you have a cell phone, if you have a tablet. these are all privileges that are given from parent to kids and that's kind of part of the deal. If you have this, this is how we're going to use it."
As anyone with kids knows, pulling back on something that kids are used to can be difficult and there's no one-size-fits-all solution, but even a small win is a win.
"It's okay to give yourself grace, not every day is going to be a perfect day. Somedays your kids are gonna be on screens more than others and that's okay too."
Dr. Moorjani also suggests keeping your child's bedroom screen-free. She says you won't be able to monitor your child's screen use if they are able to use devices while out of your sight.
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