10 Small Steps for Big Changes in Your Child’s Digital Diet
By Melanie Hempe, BSN, Founder of ScreenStrong
Happy New Year!
With the New Year here, we are all thinking about setting new goals for the next 12 months. Your instincts are telling you that along with your food diet, your digital diet needs a makeover. Here are some easy tips to get digital balance back in your family’s life this year.
- Place video games out of sight, so they’ll be out of mind. The tree can come down and so can the video games. Put those screen games that your children got as gifts back in the box and store them away where they can’t be easily accessed. Don’t leave them sitting out in the den, or worse yet, in your child’s room, where they will be overused. You can pull them out when you decide.
- Re-take this quick test. One way to know if your child is overusing screen entertainment is to ask him to list three things that he likes more than his screen. If he can’t name three hobbies that he prefers to his screen entertainment, then you have some work to do to get him re-directed!
- Commit to learn a new hobby. Help your child learn a new skill. Don’t let her favorite pastime of playing with a screen or surfing YouTube videos take over this year.
- Update your parental controls. Many parents don’t realize that a needed software update can disable parental controls on your screen devices. Reset your phone passwords while you are at it, so your kids can’t access your emails and texts.
- Set a reading list goal as a family. Did you know that 80% of U.S. families did not buy a book last year? Have a family gathering around the dinner table tonight and encourage everyone to make a list of the books they want to read this year. Set a date on the calendar to go to the library.
- Give up one social media platform this year. Many Americans are active on 3-5 social media sites, which steals hours out of their days and especially out of the days of their children. How about having one family social media account for everyone to share, adults and teens alike?This will save countless hours of wasted time while giving you the opportunity to oversee and manage what your kids are doing online.
- Clean out your digital closet. Have your family unfollow sites on social media that no longer “fit.” Your kids have outgrown their media choices the way they are outgrowing their clothes.
- Research new spring sports opportunities now for your kids. Don’t wait till the last minute to do this. We all need to move more and screens keep us from moving. While you are at it,look for some art and music classes; the key is to plan ahead and initiate a more well-rounded, balanced schedule for your child.
- Assign new chores for your children. Ramp it up a bit as they are getting older and are capable of doing much more around the house. Because of their underdeveloped frontal cortex, most kids will choose to spend all their time on low-effort, high-reward activities such as gaming and taking 100 selfies a day. Make a plan now to upgrade their responsibilities around the house as it will help them to be more attached to their family. That is their number one developmental need right now.
- Be happy! Make it your personal “parent” goal this year to reduce the screen conflict in your home by changing your attitude. Stop yelling at your kids to get off the screen. It is totally within your parental powers to take control back and reduce or eliminate screen time altogether if it is a problem.
Make a few simple commitments to live a healthier digital life. Even small changes like taking a family walk after dinner instead of allowing everyone to retreat to their screens will make a huge difference. Try steps such as not allowing entertainment screen time during the week and collect all screens early in the evening before bed. Live a bit differently than you did last year. Your family will be happier and healthier with their new digital diet!
Melanie Hempe, BSN, is the founder and executive director of ScreenStrong, a national nonprofit organization that offers a countercultural approach to eliminate childhood screen dependency, but one that just might save your kids. Melanie has developed cutting-edge programs that empower parents to pause video games and social media for kids and teens through late adolescence. Her three books can be found on Amazon: Will Your Gamer Survive College?, Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone? and The ScreenStrong Solution: How to free your child from addictive screen habits.
ScreenStrong is committed to rescuing this screen-driven generation, one family at a time.