Raising young readers is hard. It has always been hard, and as society progresses, we will continue to see new challenges erupt in trying to get our children to love reading. We’ve already posted a few pointers in getting your kids into reading, but how do we get them to trade out that screen time (tablets, phones, computers, TV) without an all out war breaking out in your home? Here, we’ll go over some awesome ways to decrease your kids time using tech and substitute for other activities (not just reading! Crafting, playing, cooking, and others are all VERY important for development!) Keep reading to find out my techniques and ideas, and make sure to add some other tips and tricks in the comments!
Kids learn in all sorts of ways, and technology is an important part of development. That being said, with a 10 year old and a three year old who ALREADY spends WAY TOO MUCH TIME watching “bideos” on Youtube Kids (oops.) I have spent my fair amount of time trying to figure out ways to balance that screen time with other modes of entertainment. So here are some tips and tricks that have worked pretty well for me and my family!
- Charge Devices in the Family Room, Not the Bedroom
If your kids tablets/phones/handheld game consoles are in the bedroom with them, they’re more likely to A-play them while they’re charging, and B- use them late into the night, and earlier in the day. If they’re charging in a family space, they’re more likely to communicate with their family (sometimes) and sleep better. This also teaches them to ration their battery and time on tech, especially if you supplement with a rule like “no tech in the living room during X time of day”.
- Go Out More, But Negotiate the Terms of Tech
We’re fortunate to live close enough to Sesame Place, an Aquarium, Two Zoos, and a plethora of Museums and fun play spaces, so we try to go out and do something with the kids as often as we can. (We both work, and Goober has some medical complexities that prevent us from this during some parts of the year, so we do what we can, when we can.) We allow the kids to use tablets, phones, etc on the way to wherever we’re going (and home), but the devices HAVE to stay in the car (or in mom and dad’s bag) once we’re there. Because they’ve gotten their time to use the devices, it’s less of a struggle to get them to put them down once we’re there. This even goes for places like Grandma’s house, and less “fun” places to go. When it comes to getting out of the house, it doesn’t need to be a place where you spend money, either. Take a class at your local library, or just stop by and pick up some books! Go to a park for a hike, or a special community event! Joining some clubs or teams will also help take time away from tech, and get your kids out socializing and moving around as well (but it may cost extra time and money, so make sure to weigh all that into your decisions)
- Turn the Camera Around
My kids love to watch Unboxing, DIY and Recipe videos on Youtube, so much so that my 9 year old has started saying “When I’m a Youtuber…” So we’ve started to capitalize on that. We turn the phone around, and instead of watching videos, we create them. Do they get posted? Mostly no. But they’re made. The recipe is cooked, the craft is created, the item is unboxed…and then played with. And there’s significantly less time spent watching things, and more time spent doing things. Some videos that your kids might enjoy creating are: Slime Recipes, Lego Building, Origami, Drawing, Baking, Board Game Play Throughs, Dance Choreography, Book Reviews and so much more!
- Interest Adjacent Activities
We kind of covered this before, but kids are more likely to put the screen down if what you’re suggesting is still in their interest. Whether it’s Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox, Music, or cute dog and cat videos, books are there for you. You can pick up game play guides for almost any video game out there, volunteer at an animal shelter (or even just take a trip to the pet store to see the cute animals there!) pick up books on their favorite music artists (or even an instrument for themselves to learn!) Just keep their interests in mind as you suggest new activities, and you’ll establish a little bit of respect that they may be inclined to reciprocate!
- Include Them
Have a conversation with them about tech time. Arm yourself with information you can discuss WITH them. Include them in your negotiations, bring up ideas you’ve found and come up with, and let them help you come up with a plan of action. If they feel included in the decision, they’ll probably be more likely to adhere to it, and less likely to complain about it.
- Give a Warning
When you’re asking your kids to disconnect for a while, try to give them a warning, and lay out your expectations for them, so it’s not sudden. For my 10 year old, I’ll say “Hey, in 30 minutes, You need to stop what you’re doing, and I want you to spend 2 hours off of your technology.” Then when I have acknowledgement, I’ll go back in at 15 minutes, and say, “Remember, in 15 minutes, I need you to bring me your phone and your chromebook, and you’re going to do something else for 2 hours.” This way, when I go in and finally say, “hey, turn off the devices, you need to find something else to do for 2 hours” it’s not as jarring, or uncontrollable. I do something similar for Goober, giving him warnings at 5, 3, and 1 minute. The kids break away from the tech MUCH easier since we started doing this.
- Remember What They’re Doing
They go to school, where they are told what to do and when to do it all day. They may be given homework to do when they get home. If they participate in sports, clubs, or other activities, that is ALSO time they’re not spending on screens. If think that you only EVER see them on their tablet/phone/what have you, really consider how much of every day you DO see them. Is it disproportionate to the amount of time they’re participating in other things? What exactly is it you’re after? More family time? More time for homework? More time for sleep? More physical activity? Instead of coming down on your children for the time they spend using tech, have an honest discussion with them about what you’d like to see from them. The war against technology doesn’t have to be waged with punishment and yelling, it could be solved with a little bit of respect and understanding (from all parties, obviously) and a healthy dose of compromise.
Well, that’s all from me on this front. What are your best tips and tricks, or your biggest issues getting your kids to trade their screens for other activities?