8 Ways to Help Your Kids Break the Video Screen Habit
Today’s kids have grown up with video games, television and the internet as part of their daily lives. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it becomes a problem when it begins to take over a child’s life and steals time away from other activities and interests. We experienced this problem with our own son a few years ago, and we had to come up with some creative solutions to keep him away from his computer and video games and get him more interested in “real” life. Here’s a few of the ideas we came up with that may help you with your own “video junkie”.
1. We Cut Off Our Cable/ Satellite Television
Okay, to be honest, we did that mostly because I got tired of having to pay for a a whole bunch of shows I never watch, but the very positive secondary effect was that with nothing on the television, our kids ( and us as well) had to find other ways to entertain ourselves. At first it was difficult to find other sources of entertainment, but it didn’t take long until our kids didn’t really miss TV anymore.
If there are shows they want to watch, we set it up so they can do so online or we watch movies at the theater or at a pay per view online site. I connected the TV to our laptop, so they can watch things on the bigger screen, but we really limit what they watch.
2. We Taught Our Kids Good Time Management Techniques
One of the problems with video based entertainment is that it can eat up a huge amount of a child’s day without them even realizing it. One way to show them just how much time they are spending in front of the video screen is to have them keep a journal where they record how much time they spend each day on the computer, smartphone, playing video games or watching TV After a week, we went through their journals with them, and I think they were really surprised at just how much time they spent in front of a video screen.
Once they saw just how much time they really were wasting, they, on their own, decided to cut back and spend time doing other things like reading, drawing or spending time “in real life” with their friends. It really has made a difference for them in managing their time, and I hope that it’s a skill that they will carry with them through the rest of their lives.
3. Make Sure That There Are Plenty of Alternatives Available
Our oldest two are very into reading, writing, crafts and creating art, so we make sure that they have lots of arts and crafts materials available, as well as lots of paper and supplies for writing. We also make sure that they have lots of access to our local library so they can choose books to read at home.
With our son it was more of a challenge. It’s very hard to get him interested in anything besides video games and computers, so we had to work hard to find other areas that he might be interested in. One thing we did was to buy him his own fish tank and fish, and encourage him to take out books at the library about fish to learn to care for them. He did, and he’s since started borrowing a lot of books and doing a lot more reading. He also takes great pride in knowing that they can depend on him to look after them.
4. Spend Time with Your Kids
This may sound like a no-brainer, but with so many parents working long hours, it can sometimes be hard to find time to spend together as a family. It’s very important that you do.
We try and eat at least one meal a day together as a family ( and we eat it at the table, not in front of the tv). On weekends, we try and take our kids out together as a family to go shopping, to visit a local attraction or just go for a family walk together. At first it was a chore to drag them away from their video screens, but it soon became something we all look forward to.
You don’t have to go out to spend time together. We try and have a “family game night” at least once a week, and we also try and spend at least half an hour every evening just talking to our kids as a family. It’s fun, and a great way to find out what’s going on in our kid’s lives. One important rule when we are having “family time” is that there are no video games, mp3 players or texting allowed ( this includes me and my wife as well as our kids).
5. Make Your Kids Friend’s Welcome In Your Home
Letting your kid’s know that their friends are welcome in your home can go a long way towards encouraging them to spend time with them in person rather than chatting with them online.
6. Find an Activity Your Kids Enjoy and Enroll Them
If there is something non-video related that your kids enjoy, music lessons, etc. – enroll them in that activity, find out if there is a local course or lessons in that activity and encourage their interest.
While it would be nice if it was a sport ( as this would encourage them to increase physical activity), not every kid is into sports. Don’t let this discourage you, as there is almost always something they are interested in that they would like to learn more about.
7. Encourage Your Kids to Become More Interested in the World Around Them
There are lots of ways your kids can get involved in their community and help others. This gets them away from their video screen, and can make them feel really good about themselves. Your local community center will be able to help you find volunteer opportunities in your community, and you can set a good example by getting involved yourself.
All our kids are very interested in digital photography, so one thing we did to pry them away from their video screens and get them outdoors was to set them up with an organization that has a data base of native plant photographs for identification.
Our kids take photos and submit them, and many of them have been used on the data base. This gives them a sense of pride and gets them out in the fresh air and encourages them to learn more about the environment. Since it includes something they already enjoy ( photography) it’s been every easy to get them interested.
8. Set a Good Example Yourself
Try keeping a journal of our own computer/TV/video game usage and see just how much time you spend in front of a screen. You may be unpleasantly surprised! If you find that you are spending more time like this than you thought , then set a good example and cut back.
If all else fails and you feel that your child needs more help than you can give them, then don’t be afraid to seek some professional help. We had no problem with our two daughters, but our son was a different story. He really is somewhat of a computer prodigy, so we have found ways to encourage this interest while, at the same time, making sure that he spends plenty of time doing other things too. Again, the key has been to help him find balance in his life.
Many kids today spend a lot more time in front of a video screen than anything else. This is troubling, as there is so much more to life. Having experienced this situation first hand, I can honestly say that it is possible to break this habit and help your kids see that there is a big, wide world out there just waiting for them if they’ll only break away from the video screen.