Reducing Screen Time
We had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Meghan Owenz of screenfreeparenting.com, at the Screen Time Action Network Conference in April. She encourages parents to consider "The Big Rocks." She recommends looking at your child's daily activities as rocks, pebbles and sand in a jar. First you add in the "Big Rocks." This includes sleep, eating and school/school-related work. Then the pebbles, like family time, free play, nature and outdoor time, chores, scheduled activities, literacy and quiet time. Once you've added all of these crucial, developmental activities, you then pour in some sand - screen use that is prosocial, quality and interactive. By focusing on the big rocks and pebbles, parents naturally end up reducing screen time. And reduced screen time for many kids results in improved sleep, improved school performance and prosocial behavior.
Managing the big rocks, pebbles and sand is easier when your children are little and you are planning out their days. Managing screen use for older children is much more difficult. Delaying unrestricted internet and social media access is a great start. More important than this is to have conversations about your family's values and your family's story. Dr. Sharon Maxwell, one of our trusted and dedicated partners, encourages families to structure time to reflect those family values. Are you a family that values time in nature? Are you a family that values music? Talk to your kids about finding time to nurture these values. Teach your children to focus on the big rocks and pebbles, to love their brains and to make good decisions.
There are plenty of places you can visit with your family to participate in screen-free activities. The obvious ones are parks and playgrounds. Also consider museums, like Concord Museum, libraries and art centers. Places like this promote literacy, creativity and exploration.
Below are some screen-free ideas for your family. Most of them come from the Screen Free Action Networks bank of resources. We are always looking for ideas. Have one? Email it to us!
Learn More (current articles):
Washington Post: Teaching Kids about Healthy Living, 9/21/18
Cris Rowan, BScOT, BScBi, SIPT: Screens, Sleep and Play, 6/21/18
Dr. Meghan Owenz and her husband Adam are on a mission to create a list of 1 million screen-free activities. So far they're north of 300. We are certain you can find some ideas here:
New dream- Reclaim your weekend
In 5 Simple Steps to Reclaiming Your Weekend, Edna Rienzi, Program Director of New Dream, describes simple steps to help families unplug. Acknowledging that most families have limited free time over the weekend, she provides suggestions to help parents and children avoid "defaulting to screens" when short periods of free time are available. Rienzi shares exercises like "How to Design Your Best Possible Weekend" and offers practical tips for unplugging, recharging, and connecting.
New Dream’s mission is to empower individuals, communities, and organizations to transform their consumption habits to improve well-being for people and the planet.
Campaign for a Commercial - Free Childhood - 7 Parent-Tested Tips to Unplug and Play
“7 Parent-Tested Tips to Unplug and Play” is a web resource which describes real-life strategies for reducing children’s media use. The tips come from a diverse group of mothers who attended Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s “Healthy Kids in a Digital World” workshops. Presented in a “true story” format, each tip’s description includes a quotation from the mother who recommended it, as well as a description of how it worked for her family. Research on the benefits of reducing screen time is also cited.
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) supports parents’ efforts to raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children and ending the exploitative practice of child-targeted marketing. In working for the rights of children to grow up—and the freedom for parents to raise them—without being undermined by corporate interests, CCFC promotes a more democratic and sustainable world.
Dr. Cheryl Charles understands that nature is a natural antidote to screen time. She is a consultant for Children and Nature Network, a Vermont-based organization leading a global movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children– and natural places–can thrive. They believe the natural world is an ally for making every member of your family feel better and closer. With that in mind, they've created a "Together in Nature." Within the attachment are some of their favorite nature activities for every age group, with a special emphasis on activities that are most conducive to building and maintaining secure parent-child attachments.
Children & Nature Network