Christmas this year is sure to be an emotional one. 2020 has been a challenging year, to say the least, with many people not seeing their loved ones. Many have been forced to remain by themselves, without even the option of keeping busy through outdoor or community-based activities. The past year has been a trying and isolating time.
With that in mind, although the prospect of prolonged family gatherings isn’t necessarily always everyone’s cups of tea, it’s safe to say that there’s a newfound appreciation for them amongst many people. Many of us will be incredibly grateful for having this opportunity to finally come together as a family - including children, who might also feel relieved to be amongst the family again. However, they may not be consciously aware of just how precious this time is because of their age. This, combined with the fact they are always in need of stimulation and entertainment, means there's a strong likelihood they'll get lost in their screens over the holidays. Yet, the preferable scenario is for them to get lost in conversation with you and the family!
The truth is that the pandemic is not yet over, and there’s still lots of uncertainty that’s present. And so, even though children may not be aware that being together won't always be a given, that could be something you're conscious of. This is perhaps why you're wondering how to encourage the kids to spend less time on their screens and more time with you.
That said, you may be a grandparent who doesn't always see your grandkids. Consequently, you might prefer not to 'ruin the fun' by demanding an end to screen time. Maybe you’d like to lean more into providing love, wisdom, and encouragement, instead of an iron fist. How can you make the most of the time you have with your grandchildren with that intention in mind, with a more stress-free grandparenting approach? One way is to limit the amount of time they're spending in front of the screen.
What is a reasonable screen time limit?
The AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) and WHO (World Health Organisation) have released some guidelines about this topic. The NHS website has also referenced these guidelines.
Children below two years: All screen media should ideally be avoided, other than video calls. If you opt to introduce media to children between 18 months and two years, you should find high-quality programming that you can view and/or play with them. Parental involvement is essential at this stage in particular.
Children between 2 - 5 years: You should limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs.
Older children: The recommended screen time for children up to 18 is two hours.
However, there is no set guide for the number of screen-time hours to go by. If you’re dismayed to realise your children have significantly more than this recommended amount, try not to feel like this. After all, most other parents and grandparents are in the same boat. And, although it may seem like it’s too late to start changing those habits now, there are things you can do to begin lessening screen-time.
How can I reduce my child’s or grandchild’s screen time?
This is an essential question that almost every parent or grandparent may have asked at one time or another. And, one that would be very helpful to answer in time for Christmas. As you probably don’t wish to dampen the festive spirit of the holidays, here are six ways to surreptitiously introduce some ground rules this Christmas to encourage minimum screen-time and maximum family fun.
- Create a fun holiday schedule! Sit down and think about how you'd like to break up the day, and the activities you and the family will enjoy doing. Taking the time to do a little Christmas day planning will keep the children too busy to resort to their devices at any given second.
- Agree with the children on the various tasks they must be complete before they’re allowed to use a device.
- Family agreements are also an excellent communicative way to open up a conversation with your whole family on the best ways for everyone to use the internet, including how to behave positively and safely online, whether at home, in school or when visiting a friend's place.
- Each time the child uses a device, decide on the amount of time they can use it in advance. Then, use a timer to make sure they stick to the agreed time, letting them know you’ve set one up. A great way to ensure there’s very little to no debating on whether enough time has been had on the device!
- Why not consider downloading a screen time monitoring app? It's another way to help prevent those few minutes on the screen from slowly turning into hours on end. It'll also free you up to take care of the other preparations needed for Christmas, such as sorting out the turkey!
- Speaking of preparing the Christmas meal, it may be tempting to handle it yourself, rather than involving anyone else. Kids, in particular. Whilst that might indeed be the more convenient option, getting the children involved in those festive activities is also a perfect way of keeping them busy. It'll also give them real responsibility and a sense of playing an important part in preparing Christmas dinner.
And here's a bonus tip... Playing with your grandchildren! Possibly the most obvious, but easily overlooked means of cutting down the time they spend in front of a screen. Although we can typically get bogged down with the many long lists of things we have to get done, playing with children is the best possible replacement for electronic devices. It’s also one of the very few ways to decrease screen time without it feeling like a punishment or another rule for the kids.
But most importantly, it brings the family together. Which is what Christmas is truly about and what we’re all in need of right now - spending quality time with family, friends and loved ones.