It's often difficult keeping kids away from the tube when school’s out, yet it's worth the effort. The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) says, “Pediatricians urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of two years. For older children, total entertainment screen time should be limited to less than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs, which should be supervised by parents or other responsible adults in the home."
If you have a hard time keeping TV time within reasonable limits or have a child who spends so much time in front of the TV they are on the brink of becoming one, a media schedule maybe the answer. Here are five tips for creating a media schedule for children.
Set limits: How many hours per day would your kids like to spend in front of a screen of some sort, whether its TV, Wii, Xbox or iPad? If yours are like mine, it's well over the APA's recommended one or two hours. Hold a family council to discuss time limits. Vote on the amount of time family members are given daily. Creating a family pledge that everyone signs is another way to decide TV limits. Check out the APA’s "Media Time Family Pledge” for a great template. Giving family members input will help stave off whining when screen time is up as you gently remind them of their agreement to the daily amount.
Decide when screen time occurs: Set a specific time each day for electronics. You may prefer to let the kids use all their time at once. You may want to invoke a TV free day. In our home, media time is during certain hours in the morning and late afternoon. This helps me fill the day with non-screen activities. Do what works best for you and your children.
Keep track of daily use: It would be wonderful if children and adults self-monitored their screen time but if this isn’t the case in your home, create a tracking mechanism. Use a timer, write down start and end times on a white board or make a daily chart. An easy way to make a media chart is to draw a grid on a piece of paper. List your children’s names down the left column and the days of the week along the top column. Label the boxes in the middle with time intervals. Put an “X” in a box each time a child uses a block of electronic time. A visual reminder will lessen the amount of parental nagging and that makes everyone happy.
Rotate: If one particular electronic device is a hot commodity in your home, let each child use the device first on a specific day of the week. Write down the rotation and post it near the device. Rotations help teach children to take turns and encourage children to be patient while waiting for their turn.
Make it special: Make screen time a family experience as opposed to an individual one. Set aside a special family media time to watch a particular show that you all can enjoy or have a Wii bowling competition, for instance. Melissa and her husband gather their children for an in home “Friday Night at the Movies” each week. This weekly ritual helps keep screen time to a minimum while involving the whole clan. It also gives their children something to look forward to.
Coming up with a media time schedule is a great way to manage screen time. Don't fret if your family experiences growing pains as you implement it. Trying and failing is better than the alternative – letting the kids turn into a TV themselves.
Jen Savage is a freelance writer and the COO of her household who loves life in Arizona.