I often see posts on social media asking “my child wants to spend all thier time in front of a screen. I restrict them to 10mins a day and its always a battle”. Or some variation of this…
The first thing I think when I see this type of question is… Well you have made a screen restricted, your child wants to watch it because they’re not allowed more than 10mins. I’d want to do it even more too…
So what happens when we reframe the ‘restricted activity’??
I have never restricted my little humans screen time, rather I’ve presented it as one activity she can do. I have also made her ‘restricted activity’ the activity I actually want her to do the most. In our case, outside play. This means that to A, playing outside trumps watching TV.
So how do you do this?
Its pretty simple really… if shes watching TV, she’s mostly alone. I might be cooking dinner or cleaning up a bit, but I wont just sit there and do nothing with her. When I’ve completed my task or I feel that she’s had enough TV time, I do something exciting. If its a nice day, I’ll tell her I want to go outside, does she want to come out? Or I might go into her bedroom and start playing with something that makes a noise. This means that her options become – stay at the TV on my own, or go see what Mums doing. As soon as she’s away from the TV, I turn it off again.
Its not a reward, or something sought after, so she’s not fussed on how much time she gets there.
Is it too late to change the pattern?
No, its not. I hear you thinking, oh ok, thats great for you, but my little human is in this pattern, I can’t change it now. Well I think you can. Choose your new activity, like outdoor play. Get something exciting for that area. It doesnt have tot be expensive, a little sand box or start a veggie garden and make some time to spend with your child.
I have no doubt that the first few days after you say “ok, no more restrictions on screen time” that little human will spend all day in front of the TV. However, once the novelty wears off and you announce you’re going outside with a bag of seeds, some dirt and a spade I bet you they will be more interested in this new activity and your time than a screen.
If it doesnt work straight away, step up thier involvement. Take them to the shops and have them choose the seeds or the seedlings. Let them grow their favourite fruits or vegatables and let them be responsible for taking care of them.
There is no way they can stare at a screen and dig at a hole.
If they want to look at a screen, encourage them to look up information on their new project.