While it’s all too easy to hand the kids an iPad just so you can get a nanosecond to go the loo in peace, we all know that too much screen time lead to screen addiction (and not just for the little ones – grown ups too!). There are other downsides too: eye strain that can lead to myopia, attention disorders and even social development delays! Scary stuff. So, as parents, it’s up to us to not only make an effort to avoid those Baby Shark-esque YouTube earworms, but it’s also up to us to prevent the kids from burning their eyeballs from blue light radiation or microwaving their brains… And of course, fresh air, sunlight and movement are good for the kids (and you), and living in sunny Singapore there’s certainly no shortage of awesome non-screen things to do outdoors.
But, if you are in a bit of fix with regards to how to digitally detox the kids, we’ve been doing some asking around on your behalf. Here’s how the HoneyKids mums are ungluing their kids from the screen by using rules, screen time apps, (healthy) bribery and just good ol’ fashioned family conversation…
Ange, mum of two: Phone free Sundays
We haven’t had a proper digital detox in our family, my boys (age five and seven years) have so many activities during the week and on the weekend, that honestly there isn’t the opportunity for them to spend lengthy periods on the iPad or in front of the TV! One thing we did bring in as a family though, is phone free Sundays. On Sundays we leave our phones at home for the entire day and don’t check them until the evening. It means that my husband and I are more present with the boys, are all looking for other things to do during our chill out time, and rather than checking Instagram we’re reading, playing together, having a swim or kicking a footy. I won’t lie, there have been a few Sunday’s where I’ve sneakily checked my phone or just forgotten completely! But the times we have committed and stuck to the all day phone free Sunday, it’s been such a lovely day hanging out as a family.
Dawn, mum of two: Lots of rules
It takes four things to do a digital detox on my daughters (aged eight and 10 years):
- Constant monitoring
- A very, very good parental app.
I use the in-built function in iOS which can control which apps are free to use for an unlimited amount of time (like the NLB app) and which apps can be used for a controlled amount of time (like YouTube). It’s also supplemented by other rules. For example, they can only use the iPad after they finish doing their homework, are showered and have brushed their teeth, and this is applicable from Friday to Sunday. My daughters are tech-savvy so these rules are also based on trust. If they break a rule, like using the iPad more than they’re allowed, they get a ban. Rules ground them, and now they don’t even ask for the iPad from Monday to Thursday.
Santi, mum of one: Bribe them with toys
I did a digital detox on my son when he was about 18 months old. At first I let him watch videos while eating, but when he stopped eating and just kept watching, I put my foot down. No more watching videos. He’s three and a half now and he only watches television on the weekends. The initial stages were difficult but I used toys to wean him off. At the start I would buy him a lot of toys, like surprise packs and blind bags with Transformers and other figurines, just to keep him distracted while he ate. I no longer buy toys for him, instead I use a reward system where if he does as he’s told (in any situation), I reward him with a star. After he collects five stars, I bring him to Toys R Us to let him pick something out. It’s really worked for us, and I love how he takes responsibility for choosing which toys he wants to bring out with him for a meal these days.
Jana, mum of two: Don’t even start the habit
Well first of all, I’m not really a fan of using iPads or YouTube as a babysitter, so my boys (age three and one year) don’t get much screen time. My kids also don’t really sit still for long enough anyway, and prefer to do lots of things like build things or make a mess, so I let them play in the playground or take them to the Botanic Gardens. If I need a moment, I’ll let them watch something on the TV (not on a device) for 15-30 minutes. It will usually be a documentary about nature or animals, or an actual movie like Sing or Finding Nemo. During mealtime, I use good ol’ family conversation, but it helps that my boys love to eat so they are really focused on their food. I think parents should be really strict about letting kids watch YouTube while eating. Don’t let that habit even start or else it will be impossible to kick.
Yvonne, mum of two: Use screen time as a reward
It’s impossible to detox them completely but I’m trying to restrict their screen time to one hour a day. I can’t restrict them at school because my kids (age six and three years) are already using the computer for homework and as a tool for learning. But at home, I monitor their computer usage by sitting next to them. I also get them to watch TV instead of use the devices and reward screen time every time they complete a task. For example, if they finish dinner in half an hour or read a book, they get 10 minutes of screen time. In this day and age, it’s impossible for kids to not be submerged in technology, so we have to take them out of it, bring them outdoors for the sake of their sanity and their eyesight. Baby steps.
Tracy, mum of three: Lead by example
I spend far too much time myself being distracted by my iPhone, and it’s all too easy to just quickly answer an email or respond to a Whatsapp message, but really, if I’m honest, it can all wait. My kids all love their screens. My eldest is nearly 17 years old so he uses his computer a lot for school projects, but he’s also rather partial to online gaming with his mates. We have an app whereby myself or his dad can check when he is online so can restrict the internet access if we feel it is too prolonged or excessive. It goes down really well when we ‘switch him off’…
The smaller two are less inclined to pick up a screen, but certainly they do so more than they should. And that’s why now, when I get home from work and at the weekends, I really try and limit my own usage, and instead encourage board games or a run around the garden with the dogs. I have set a ‘screen time usage’ on my own device, and it can be quite startling to see just how many times the phone is picked up and looked at in one day! I’m determined to get that weekly report into a far more palatable reading, and in turn setting an example to my kids that there is far more to be getting on with than mindless scrolling.
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