Screens are an increasing fact of family life — the average age kids get their first mobile phone is now 10.3 years — but all of us need to power-down from time to time. Here’s how to keep digital insanity at bay for a healthier, happier family life.
With the launch last year of Apple’s Screen Time feature, many of us learned that our current screen time habits are rather eye-opening, to say the least. What’s more? They’ve gone up over the years and are showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
One 2018 study found that adults in the U.S. spend an average of more than three hours and 48 minutes per day “reading, listening to or simply interacting with media” on computers, tablets or mobile devices, with 62 percent of this screen time happening on smartphones. These numbers have grown consistently year over year.
If you think that’s bad, our kids are on their phones even more. Tweens’ daily screen time average was 4.5 hours, while teens spent a staggering 6.5 hours per day on average staring at screens, according to the same study.
All of this is certainly hurting our family time, and may even be hurting our wellbeing. In fact, screen time is shown to have an impact on everything from cognitive development and sleep to obesity in children.
So just how are we supposed to limit our kids’ screen time, especially when adults are spending nearly as much time on their phones and tablets as children? Here are a few easy tips for taking a break from screens for the sake of the whole family.
- Set clearly defined limits and stick to them: Maybe this means only allowing three 20-minute iPad sessions per week for younger children, or no phones or tablets in a tween’s or teen’s room overnight. Whatever your screen time rules, make sure they are clear and that you take the time to actually enforce them.
- Lead by example: From the studies conducted so far, it looks like all of us, no matter our age, could use a break from our screens. Limit screen time among the whole family by leaving your phone in another room during meals, morning and bedtime routines, or when you’re doing another family activity like playing a board game or watching a movie.
- Give your screen time a purpose and vocalize it: One great way to limit screen time is to prioritize other things. But how do we show our kids that not every situation must involve a screen? You can show them how necessary and unnecessary screen time is by stating your purpose for each time you pick up your phone. For example, if you say, “I’m checking the time” or “Your mom sent a text about when she’ll be home” or “Let’s check this recipe out for dinner” you are showing your children there is intent and purpose behind using your phone, and it doesn’t just exist for mindless browsing.
- Include designated Tech-Free time in your family’s schedule: Whether it’s after 7 p.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sunday afternoons, whenever, having a set time when there are no devices allowed will get your whole family into the habit of lowering their screen time and coming up with other fun family activities that you may enjoy even more.
If you’re a T-Mobile customer, it’s also worth looking into adding FamilyMode, which can help you meet some of the goals above (and more!) to further help bring down your entire family’s screen time.