Media and technology play a significant role in our society, but media saturation can be problematic in young children. Preschoolers watch an average of 3-4 hours of TV per day. School age children spend an average of over 7 hours a day with recreational media use including TV, video games, and now devices like ipads. Excessive media use has been linked to decreases in learning, creativity and physical health.
If media is consuming your family, or someone you know, here are 10 tips for reducing the amount of media in the everyday lives of children and families.
1. Create a safe, TV-free room in the house where a young child can play safely with you around, but not directly engaged with them for times you need to get other things done.
2. If affordable, hire a babysitter (who agrees not to use media) to care for your children during your busiest times. If budget does not allow for paying someone, make an agreement with a friend, neighbor or family member to do a care swap. ex. - arrange to take her children one morning a week if she takes your children another morning.
3. Have children help cook meals with you (even a 24 month old can help cook!)
4. Don’t give up naps too early. Developmentally it is still appropriate for a 6 year old to nap. Even if the child doesn’t nap, they can be taught to lay quietly in their bed for a rest time. Children who know how to read should have 30 minutes of silent reading in their beds each day. Parents can use this as their break time and time to get things done.
5. Make a rule - no TV/Video Games in children's bedrooms and no TV/Games in the car( unless the drive is over 2 hours). Use music or audio books for children who are used to the TV on at bedtime. Play media free games in the car.
6. Keep a Packed 4 Fun backpack (a prepacked activity filled backpack with small games and activities in the car. Bring this into places where you are tempted to hand over your iphone (restaurants, waiting rooms, other boring places etc.)
7. If you agree to allow media in restaurants and similar settings, have a rule that it is allowed only at a certain time - not through the whole experience. Work young children up on how many minutes they can sit at the table with manners. Engage them in conversation instead of just talking over them. Play old fashion games while waiting for food like tic tac toe, sliding tick tack toe, hangman, etc.
8. Instead of a Friday night family movie night, set up a Friday night board game night or craft night or living room fort/camping night. Instead of going to the movies, go bowling, ice-skating, or for a sunset trip to the beach.
9. Keep everyone in the family active. Take advantage of free activities through the city’s parks and recreation department. Look for free activities in the community. Go on hikes, walks and bike rides and scavenger hunts. Join recreation sports teams or take lessons- music, dance, karate, art, second language, cooking etc. Join your local YMCA (discounted and scholarships are available for families who cannot afford it)
10. Think creatively, and encourage your children to do so too on how they can use materials you would normally throw away. Click here for related posts to see recycled fun activities