Three painfully obvious suggestions to reduce your child’s screen time

A major concern of paediatricians today is excessive screen time in children. Here are three (painfully obvious) suggestions for avoiding and reducing screen time. Unfortunately, these are increasingly becoming viewed as unnecessary or unreasonable by some parents:

  1. Read a lot of books
  2. Talk to your kids about normal life every day
  3. Don’t use digital devices as the default activity

Here are some observations on these suggestions by age.

Babies and toddlers

If you have a young child with you in the cart at the store, don’t hand them a phone to shut them up or keep them entertained (this is pretty much an epidemic every time I go to the store.) Talk to your child instead.

The store is a place where a child can learn a lot about the world by simply watching things and having you narrate the world for him. So talk! (Moms, I know constant narration gets exhausting, but keep it up!)

A book is a shared activity that brings parent and baby together. Opt for human-connective activities most of the time. A baby watching a device is a non-human connective activity. Minimise this as much as possible.

Bring a bag, box or backpack of books everywhere you go: to the doctor’s office, in the car, to the tyre shop, to the store. If you expect books to be the default, they will be.

Young children

Resist setting quotas for how much time your child must read. Forcing kids to read as if it is a punishment or a chore crushes the joy out of it for them (and you). Though well-intentioned, reading minute quotas tend to orient children away from the love of reading. Read for the joy of reading, and let your kids do the same!

Reading invitations, challenges or binges are different to reading quotas. It’s all about the approach!

When heading off somewhere in the car, a parent or grandparent can say something like, “Let’s bring 10 books with us today! Go grab the ones you want!”

Or they could say, “Hey, this Friday, let’s have a book binge. Let’s see if we can read and eat popcorn for a whole hour together!”

Or, “Maybe we can read a whole book out loud together this week. Want to try? Which one should we choose?”


Join Mercator today for free and get our latest news and analysis

Buck internet censorship and get the news you may not get anywhere else, delivered right to your inbox. It's free and your info is safe with us, we will never share or sell your personal data.

When your child begins to read independently, don’t stop reading to him. Keep reading together and independently. Wear out your library card finding beautiful books to read together.

If you didn’t have a mom or dad who read to you, be that mom or dad now. It will pay off enormously later.

If you don’t have time to read regularly with your child, it may be time to rethink your priorities and make some adjustments.

Tweens and teens

If you kept the house stocked with books throughout your child’s young life and continued to read with him through his foundational years, your child is most likely to enjoy reading. Support this trend by keeping him well-stocked with books you trust.

Unfortunately, you absolutely cannot just go browsing in the teen section at the library these days and expect to find suitable material. Stick to classics you loved as a kid and take recommendations from trusted sources like this, this, and this.

It's fine to watch a movie or play a digital game once in a while, or even to entertain your children with wholesome media while you do something else sometimes. But if your default family activity has become joint media consumption or independently scrolling on your phones, it may be time to change things up.

Board games are a great alternative, as is anything you do outside (picnicking, tossing a Frisbee, hiking, throwing rocks, looking at the stars, lying on a blanket, walking, etc.)

The point of all of this is to talk about life, reflect, and connect! So let’s keep reading, talking, and resisting the urge to default to media. Your children and grandchildren will thank you someday. Perhaps even today.

Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below.

Kimberly Ells is the author of The Invincible Family. Follow her at Invincible Family Substack.

Image credit: Pexels


Showing 6 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-05-26 10:47:31 +1000
    The problem in uninvolved parents. It has always been thus. It isn’t phones. Phones are what children turn to when their parents are distant, or unable to understand that their most important role is raising their children. All these kids really want is for their parents to notice they are alive.
  • Michael Cook
    followed this page 2024-05-25 11:03:22 +1000
  • John Joseph
    commented 2024-05-22 11:27:35 +1000
    Judging from the number of small children you see playing with phones on public transport and other public places, the message still hasn’t sunk in about how and why screen time is damaging to children. So many parents are so appallingly slack, they’d rather give the kid a device upon which they can watch a movie and so not be disturbed while they themselves are glued to a screen. The human race is doomed.
  • Jon Dykstra
    commented 2024-05-21 22:58:54 +1000
    I’d also nominated as a great place to go for safe, and importantly, good, books.
  • mrscracker
    “(Moms, I know constant narration gets exhausting, but keep it up!)”

    Not to sound overly grumpy but constant narration gets exhausting also for the other folks in public places. A little bit is cute & ok, but not constant, please.
  • Kimberly Ells
    published this page in The Latest 2024-05-20 08:59:38 +1000