Some families make New Year’s Resolutions to cut down on screen time, and experts have some tips for actually getting your kids to put down the cell phone or tablet.
The key is to identify your child’s vulnerabilities and address any underlying issues.
Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, founder and president of the nonprofit Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development and clinical assistant professor of pediatric public health in the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, said for example, your tween-age son might use gaming to reduce loneliness and connect with friends, so more in-person playdates can help.
“Other times, the reason that kids have trouble turning off games has to do with something physiological, like a dopamine rush of the game,” Hurst-Della Pietra explained.
Some children use gaming to cope, as an escape from any issues they may be having in school or at home, in which case therapy may help. Experts advise it is important to set screen time rules, just like rules for bedtime and nutrition. Many families forbid screens at the dinner table and turn off their devices’ Wi-Fi at a certain time each night.
Hurst-Della Pietra cautioned it is not wise to try to quit screen time cold turkey.
“Find where digital media is not serving your family and resolve to take small steps,” Hurst-Della Pietra suggested. “Then those can lead to big improvements in everyone’s well-being.”
In addition, she recommended families look for other fun non-screen activities, such as a family game night.