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7 ways to get your children off the screens

By Collett Smart - psychologist 1 min read
Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Instead of banning screentime, we need to help our children find a healthy balance.

Nature is known to provide cognitive benefits and enhance our overall physical and mental wellbeing. Yet, thanks to technology, many children are not getting enough exercise or spending enough time outdoors.

However, there is no easy answer to how much time your child should be allowed with technology, because not all screentime is equal. So instead of banning screentime, we need to help our children find a healthy balance.

Start by setting a clear screentime plan, with rules about when and for how long your child can use entertainment media such as online games and movies. Also, add suggestions for offline activities. Your plan should also include consideration for controlled access by a parent for children and younger teens, age restrictions for games and movies, as well as consequences for breaking the rules.

Some other boundaries might include:

  • A balance of screentime and green time (literally seeing nature) activities. For example, encourage children to spend one hour outside after a one-hour session on a screen (in the garden, at a park, kicking a ball, jumping on a trampoline).
  • Non-screen entertainment options (board games, reading a book, playing an instrument, playing with toys, dancing, cuddling animals, arts and craft).
  • Developing a mix of face-to-face socialising opportunities.
  • A list of weekly physical activity (it is recommended that children aged 5–12 years engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day).
  • Locate devices in a shared visible place in the home and ensure that all technology (including your teen’s phone) is out of bedrooms at night.
  • Agreed bedtimes per age, with screens switched off around one to two hours before bed (to calm overstimulated brains).
  • How parents will model healthy screentime habits.

Get the whole family involved in creating the list. Children are more inclined to stick to a plan they feel they were part of creating. Put this up as a tangible list on the fridge if your child needs it.


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Collett Smart is a psychologist, qualified teacher, speaker and internationally published author. She lives with her husband and three children in Sydney. The heart of Collett’s work is to support parents. or