Tips for Limiting Screen Time for Kids

Tips for Limiting Screen Time for KidsHaving the “attention span of a goldfish” used to be an insult. These days, it may be a reality. The human attention span has shrunk from 12 seconds to 8–about as long as a goldfish’s.

This comes as no shock to modern parents. From sunup to sundown, their children’s eyes lock feverishly onto electronic screens.

It’s clear a decreasing attention span is but one of many health detriments of their gadgets.

Every parent’s mission has turned to limiting screen time for kids. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Kids are reluctant to part from them–and screens are a great way to keep them busy.

Fortunately, there are some helpful ways to find a happy medium – coming up below.

I’m sharing these tips not only because I’m a mom to a son. I am also a bestselling personal development author with about 2 million books sold globally.

Plus the founder of the therapist recommended online course: The Anxiety Cure.

I love sharing tips to help parents to live calmer and happy lives with the best connections with their kids. So, continue reading as we discuss in-depth how to achieve a realistic screen time balance.

Should Parents Limit Screen Time?

As with everything, it’s important to approach things with nuance. Electronic devices have become a staple of our society. Everyone can agree they are not inherently bad.

The Delphic maxims provide evergreen advice in this situation: nothing in excess. Most things are good to some degree. Nothing is good in the extreme.

Parents know best that children struggle with impulse control. Their judgment is impaired during development. Therefore, they should introduce some sort of limitation to screen time.

Is There a Problem With Screen Time?

That leads us to the next question: is there really a problem here? This topic is controversial, to say the least. Many fall firmly on different sides of the debate.

We must determine how much is too much, and that answer cannot be distilled into a simple one. It all depends on kids, psychology, and technology itself.

Accounting for the Individual

Plenty of children have no trouble using only a reasonable amount of screen time. Children have different personality types, after all. Some are outdoors-oriented, some homebodies, and some are tech aficionados.

There’s an element of personal responsibility and tolerance here, too. Some kids notice more negative effects compared to others. Some exhibit better control than others.

There’s a deeper, more pertinent issue here, though. One that has nothing to do with the individual. Rather, with the fundamental design of our modern technology.

The Issue With Modern Smart Devices

Let’s cut to the chase: modern smart devices have an addiction-oriented design. They build themselves to draw our attention and hold it. Device and software engineers lock us into a dopamine reward cycle on purpose–not by accident.

Humans like novel experiences. That is, we enjoy new, exciting, shiny things. This is our evolution at play, driving us to seek stimulation.

The problem isn’t desiring novel stimulation. Rather, getting bored of stimulation too fast. Our attention fades, and we leap for the next novel thing.

This is why people often find themselves scrolling through social media nonstop. It’s the perfect addictive loop of novel experiences. This is the core of the problem.

Examining the Statistics

Data does not lie, and there’s plenty of it for this phenomenon. To rule out all the variables, let’s see what experts have surmised. Some studies suggest at least 49% of kids may have an unhealthy technology addiction.

This number tends to change and fluctuate over time. For example, the pandemic created a drastic societal shift in behavioral patterns. During that time, 82% of parents had serious concerns about their children’s screen time.

We have a problem. Our increasingly technologically-intertwined world is leading to unhealthy tech usage.

To solve the problem, though, we need to dig deeper. Let’s examine the specific detriments that too much screen time causes.

Why Is Screen Time Bad for Kids?

As mentioned, kids have impaired judgment and limited impulse control. They are still in development, after all.

The harm of excessive screen time is an issue for everyone. However, let’s discuss how it affects children in particular.

Dopamine Addiction and Deprivation

This refers to the point made previously. That is, humans prefer novel experiences. We like things that are unexpected and intriguing, rather than familiar and boring.

This is exactly what happens with children who have too much screen time. They use apps that all incentivize this sort of behavior. The following apps are especially egregious offenders:

  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • TikTok

All of these apps serve different markets but produce the same effect. They provide an endless stream of novel content. Children can use them virtually forever, never running out of material.

To make matters worse, these apps use sophisticated algorithms. Algorithms learn what children like, customizing their personal feeds to taste. Over time, said feeds supply exactly what they want to see–incentivizing more screen time.

Why Dopamine Addiction Is Problematic

This nonstop consumption of novel material is bad for a reason: it reprograms the brain.

Normally, the human brain is accustomed to rare dopamine rewards. Novel experiences happen from time to time, not on demand. In the interim, humans must accept tedium.

When there are too many novel experiences, the brain changes. It grows to expect them more often. As a result, everyday “tedious” experiences become unbearable.

Normal life loses flavor and purpose. Less novel activities–reading, playing, studying–are therefore less enticing. Children experience decreasing desire to participate in them.

This problem only gets worse with time. It results in mental health issues: depression, anxiety, and ADHD/ADD.

Challenges With Social Interaction

Humans are social creatures, that is an undisputed fact. We require family, friends, and communities. We thrive in environments with people of all kinds.

Of course, social development is critical to one’s well-being. To coexist in any environment, one must have experience interacting with people in healthy ways. Screen time tends to rob children of social experience.

The result has been a decades-long increase in social anxiety disorder. That is, difficulty or inability to function in normal social situations.

Consequences of Widespread Social Anxiety

You can see the consequences of this everywhere you go. Where once most people could handle interactions with strangers, these days they can’t. Buying groceries, going into interviews, and meeting new people becomes challenging or crippling.

We have already witnessed the consequences of this widespread behavior in Millennials and Gen-Z. There will likely be an even larger number of people with this disorder in Generation Alpha.

Communities will break down, creating tension and mistrust. It’s a cruel cycle that damages everything: dating, friendships, friend groups. And it only worsens with time.

Lack of Basic Skills

Life is a great teacher. Unique situations teach us new things. Many of these lessons are invaluable and necessary for the average person.

To have these experiences, one must go out and about. They must attend social functions, work in different jobs, travel, and so on. Screen time, unfortunately, robs children of these experiences as well.

This creates an over-dependence on technology. In short, kids can’t function without their phones and tablets. Things that are normal for previous generations are out of reach to newer ones.

Consequences of Tech Dependency

One can already guess how this is problematic for modern generations.

Take, for example, handyman skills. Many previous generations learned how to fix things as kids on their own. They mowed lawns, did oil changes, and fixed their homes.

Now, many children may not be able to do these things without technology. Take using a lawnmower as an example. They can watch a YouTube video to figure it out, but otherwise, they may be stymied.

It’s not just the specific things they can’t do. More importantly, it’s the inability to figure things out. Previous generations could guess how to use a lawnmower, but newer generations lack that critical thinking.

Limiting Screen Time for Kids

So, we’ve examined several of the key issues with excessive screen time. What’s next? Let’s look over tips and techniques for reducing screen time with children.

Set Hard Limits

Sometimes, it’s best to do things the old-fashioned way. Put a hard limit on how much screen time they can have per day. Once they reach that threshold, they get no more.

Luckily, modern tools can help with this regulation. Most modern smartphones have built-in parental controls. You can set them up on your child’s phone, or manage them from your own device.

This allows you to restrict what websites to visit and apps they use. Importantly, it allows you to enforce strict limits on app usage time. Once they hit their daily limit, the phone blocks further usage.

Don’t establish internet boundaries for kids without a replacement, though. That leads to the next point.

Encourage New Hobbies

There are many, many exciting hobbies out there. It’s impossible for someone to not find leisurely activities they enjoy. So, help your children if they don’t already have one.

Try everything you can think of. Painting, gardening, hiking, and even collecting action figures. Focus on hobbies that get them away from tech and into the outdoors.

Barring that, promote hobbies that are educational or mentally stimulating. Digital painting increases screen time, sure. The challenge of creating art, though, makes it a worthwhile endeavor.

Expand Their Horizons

The online world provides an incredible treasure trove of information. People can see anything in the world, learn anything from the comfort of their beds. Make no mistake, the average person is far more cultured than ever before.

However, it’s still important to expand their horizons in real life. Take them on road trips. Go on international travels.

Bring them to different religious congregations or communal gatherings. Take them to museums and reenactments. Visit zoos, go on safaris, and take backpacking trips.

Give them a chance to see all the beauty–and sometimes ugliness–the world has to offer. This is an important step in raising a well-rounded individual.

Enforce Penalties

When push comes to shove, you have to keep to penalties. If they break the rules, there must be consequences. Children who fail to learn consequences fail in many other aspects of life.

For example, you may discover that a child has subverted your screen time limit. Suppose they go to a friend’s house to play video games when their limit is already up. Without consequences for this behavior, efforts to reduce screen time will be in vain.

That said, don’t make the penalties unreasonably harsh. Remember, this technology is an integral part of your child’s life. They’ll need it for many necessary aspects of their life.

It helps to collaborate with your children in making the rules and punishments. If they get a say, they’ll cooperate better when an infraction arises. There’s a better mutual understanding and less bad blood as a result.

Make Screen Time Productive

Screen time doesn’t need to be a complete waste. Adults all understand well the detriment of overusing these digital tools. We also know that we can use them for good.

So, consider changing how your child spends their screen time. For example, make a portion of it a chance for them to learn and grow. Instead of watching some brain-dead YouTuber like Jake Paul, they can watch Kurzgesagt.

Instead of playing mindless, dopamine-flooded Clash of Clans, they can play Suduko. Many games teach children problem-solving, strategy, and cooperation. Coordinating a construction project in Minecraft is an underrated example.

Be Patient and Understanding

The world has changed, and will never be the same again. Technology is a central facet of everyone’s lives. The Internet is no longer optional in past years.

Don’t commit the fallacy of deferring to the old ways just because. Some things are the way they are now, and that’s it.

Digging in your heels only does more harm. Learn to accept, and be open-minded.

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

With everything said up to this point, you might still be asking how much is too much. Even though it depends entirely on the circumstances, research has come up with some answers.

Some sources say only two hours or less per day. Others may go as high as four.

Other studies focus on time spent away from screens. One source suggests dedicating at least 3-4 hours detached from screens. The time spent on screens is irrelevant provided there’s enough time off them.

Of course, a parent knows best. You know your child and your situation. Do your research, but ultimately, make the final decision yourself.

Create a Healthy Screen Time Balance

Technology is now key to the average person’s life, end of discussion. Limiting screen time for kids, though, is still important for their overall well-being. Use this guide as a jumping-off point in setting limits for your children.

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