If you're like most modern-day parents, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. As the New Year approaches, families are setting goals for the coming year, and cutting down on screen time is a big one.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids are engaging with screens on average seven hours each day, a habit that can contribute to serious problems like childhood obesity, a lack of interpersonal skills and even limited vocabulary in children under two.
The AAP recommends cutting that time down to an hour or two each day, which as many parents already know, is a lot easier said than done.
If you're not sure where to start, we've compiled a list of tried-and-true tips on how to get your kid out of the virtual world and into the real one.
Take Baby Steps1 of 8
It can be tempting to tell your children they can only be on their phone an hour each day, but be careful with this cold-turkey approach. Extreme change doesn't leave much room for healthy adjustment, and it can eventually backfire, leading to rebellion and resentment, especially if your kid is a chronic user.
Instead, take baby steps. Start with a reoccurring, screen-free period or day each week and leave the rest of their time alone. This will ease them into the process of cutting back, without their needs and wants being completely ignored.
Set Screen-Free Areas2 of 8
Setting designated screen-free areas is another way of imposing meaningful restrictions in small measures. Screen-free areas could include the dinner table or your child's bedroom.
You can put this idea into action by creating a charging station in a general area (or in your bedroom if you want to be extra vigilant). This station will be where devices go to be charged when it's dinnertime or bedtime.
Once you establish this routine, it will be second nature to simply check in their phones or iPads at that time. Plus, the devices will be fully charged for their next use, which makes just about everyone happy.
Lead By Example3 of 8
Always keep in mind who their role model is—you. If you're constantly checking work emails or mindlessly watching TV after dinner, it's going to be difficult for your child to understand screen restrictions.
Make it a personal goal to stare at screens less. Fill that time with activities that involve the whole family, such as making dinner together or playing a board game. Model how to responsibly use electronics with your own behavior.
Get Outside4 of 8
Perhaps the best antidote to screens is time in the great outdoors. Schedule a family vacation to a national park, where access to Wi-Fi and cell service will be limited.
Enjoy a long stretch of time without any electronics, and reconnect your child to nature. Help them discover their favorite outdoor activity, whether it's fishing, hiking or stargazing. If your kid learns how to have fun in the natural world, they will be more motivated to stay there.
Focus on Screen Use Instead of Screen Time5 of 8
Though the overall goal is to cut down on screens, remember there's a big difference between using an iPad to play Candy Crush and using it to read a book. Spend some time looking at how your child engages with media. Are they creating art or music on their device? Are they watching an educational show?
Even Sesame Street has been shown to improve number and letter memorization in young children, and exposure to mainstream media and pop culture can increase racial and ethnic tolerance in older kids. Focus on achieving these positive outcomes instead of limiting media consumption as a whole.
Create the Rules Together6 of 8
If things aren't going as smoothly as you would like, consider sitting your child down and asking them what they think the rules should be. You might be surprised by their answer.
Kids are often thrilled to be involved in adult decision-making processes and many will want to showcase a maturity that keeps them at the table. If you feel their proposals are reasonable, agree to them and watch how motivated your child is to follow a rule he or she helped create.
Accept the Inevitability of Media7 of 8
Finally, realize that screens are here to stay. Cell phones are practically a modern necessity and even schools use iPads now as teaching aids. Screens will be an important part of your child's personal and professional life, so it's important you teach them how to engage with them responsibly—not outlaw them altogether.