Everywhere you look, it’s a high-tech world for kids. Between online video games, instant messaging platforms, and social media apps, electronic pastimes are everywhere. Over the last few years, out of necessity, even online school has become more popular.
So if technology is all around, how can you limit your child’s exposure? It can be tough to give your kid a more “in real life” (IRL) than virtual childhood. Still, there are strategies you can use to minimize their tech time. Keep reading for some tactics that can keep your child out of the online world as much as possible.
1. Try a Smart Watch
Even if you’re device-averse in general, you probably appreciate tech’s ability to track your child’s whereabouts. Smartphones frequently have tracking technology, but you’re probably wary of giving one to your child. That’s understandable: They’re a gateway to binge-watching TikTok or diving into social media. Your kid could stare at the screen for hours before putting it down. When they have a phone in their hand, they may never consider stepping outside to play.
There’s good news, though. If you give them a kids smart watch, you get the same GPS tracking feature without the downsides. When your kid has one of these devices, it’s easy for you to keep tabs on their location. Plus, the watches don’t offer internet or social media access, so there’s less screen temptation to keep them from being active. You can check out Gabb Wireless to learn more about smart watches for children.
2. Create an Active Environment
Most kids turn to technology as a way to avoid being bored. When they have other things to do, they’re less likely to seek out electronic amusements. To stave off boredom and promote healthy play, give your child multiple options for outdoor activities.
Do you have a backyard? Get creative and turn it into a sports field. Resale sports equipment stores can be a treasure chest to outfit your outdoor space. You can find soccer or softball nets, cornhole sets, or even moveable basketball goals. If you have dogs, make it your child’s job to walk them. The point is to give them engaging alternative activities.
3. Resist Following the Technology Routine
This tactic could be a hard one for you as a parent. After all, you’ve been taught that it’s important for your child to have a routine. Maybe letting your child watch “Blue’s Clues” reruns before preschool is a standard part of your morning. Sure, they like the show, but does that mean they need to watch it daily?
The truth is they may not miss the program if you don’t automatically flick the tube on. Wait and see whether your child requests their favorite cartoon or movie. Give them a chance to become creative on their own. They might surprise you with a cool drawing or neat pillow-and-blanket fort. Let their imagination run wild and see what happens.
4. Limit Screen Time
We live in a digital age, so it’s unrealistic — and arguably counterproductive — to take electronics away from your child completely. You do need to set limits, though. Maybe they’re allowed to use electronics a couple hours a day. Or perhaps you spread it out to just a couple of days a week. Include your child in whatever schedule you set so they’ll be on board from the beginning.
Make dinner screen-free and talk with them about the importance of family time. Explain that they need to wind down before bed, so they have to put screens down by 7:30 p.m. Putting these time-based rules in place is a great way to set expectations. It will also limit any potential whining — the absence of which will be music to your ears!
5. Delay Battery Replacement
How often does your child come to you with pleading eyes and a dead video controller in their hand? Then they sincerely beg you to please provide fresh batteries. It’s tempting to give in to their request. After all, if your TV remote ran out of juice, you’d immediately pop in new AAs, right?
It might sound mean, but don’t jump up and rummage through the utility drawer just yet. Try a delaying tactic to see what your child does. Tell your child you’ll help them look for batteries in a little while. Or maybe let them know you’ll add them to your shopping list if you really don’t have any on hand. Once their electronic toy isn’t an option, they’ll figure out something else to do with their time.
6. Actively Host Their Friends
These days, kids don’t necessarily need playdates to hang with their friends. It’s easy for them to chill out and talk while playing an online video game. Unfortunately, that still means your kid might stay in the den for hours, staring at a screen. So, what do you do?
In this case, it may be time to break out your hosting skills. Have your child invite their buddy over for some non-electronic time. Set up some of that sports equipment mentioned earlier. Plan a scavenger hunt for them in the neighborhood. Hold a baking competition in your kitchen. Both kids will enjoy the face-to-face time to be active, get silly, and have fun.
In today’s world, it’s easy to fall into an electronic routine. As an adult, you may rely on your device for work, so you can’t put it down for long. That doesn’t mean your kid should be tied to technology all the time, too. While a little high-tech activity is OK, children benefit a lot from more screen-free hours. Try these strategies to shift your child’s attention, and they’ll be having more IRL fun before you know it.