Managing Your Child’s Screen Time Usage During the Holidays

With the fast arrival of the holiday season comes every kid’s favorite time of the year and every parent’s most dreaded time of the year: winter break from school. The kids are home for a few weeks and will likely choose to occupy their time by playing on their devices. Whether those devices are gaming consoles, mobile phones or tablets, they are likely to be played for hours on end. This can be a pain point for many families during this time of the year.

Many parents find it difficult to manage their child’s screen time while also finding creative ways to encourage their child(ren) to spend time together as a family. As daunting of an issue as managing screen time can seem to be, there are a few ways to make the process smoother for the whole family

Having The Important Conversations

The most important step in managing screen usage is setting established rules that both you and your child can mutually agree upon. By allowing them to be an active participant in the rule setting process, they will be more likely to want to follow them. The holiday break can be a great time to have this conversation with your child and explain to them why it is important to their mental and physical health to take breaks from their devices.

While you’re on the subject of setting healthy digital habits, it’s also important to talk to your child about avoiding the dangers of the Internet. Important topics to cover include: cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate material, online predators and keeping personal information private. Many of these issues can be avoided by setting up parental controls that help you as a parent to monitor their online activity, and also by choosing an antivirus software that will keep your family safe online. It’s never too early to have these types of conversations with your child and this time of year can be a great time to have them as winter break approaches and more internet-connected devices are gifted.

Creative Solutions

The best way to get your kids to step away from their devices is to offer distracting options which will place their attention elsewhere. Opt for creative solutions and alternatives that the whole family can participate in. There are many options, especially during the holiday season. Here are a few we suggest based on the age of your child(ren).

Ages 3-5

With this age group, it is particularly important to limit screen time as their small little brains still have a lot of growing to do. The holiday season can be a particularly magical time for the young ones. With all of the excitement, it won’t be hard to find alternative family activities that you can incorporate even the youngest ones in. Suggestions include:

  • Visiting Santa at your local mall
  • Taking a walk to see the lights in your neighborhood
  • Picking out a book at the library

Ages 5-7

With this age group, they are just in the introductory phase to technology. They will likely start to ask for internet-connected devices, video games, and movies. Because the subject matter of many of these video games and movies can be harmful to them, it’s important to educate yourself as a parent on the rating systems used and knowing if your child is ready for content of a certain nature or not.

  • Baking cookies together
  • Building a snowman or going sledding
  • Making a holiday-themed craft together

Ages 9-12

This age group is one of the most active screen users between tablets, video games, and even smartphones. It’s extremely important that you have the important conversations about internet security with children of this group. Monitoring their online activity with parental controls may be seen as invasive by some parents, but it can be an effective tool for keeping your child safe online. When screens are away, the family can play! There are many activities for this age group to partake in during the holiday season, for example:

  • Participating in a giveback program
  • Going to a local holiday festival
  • Making a homemade present for a family member

Teens

Parents of teenagers often complain about the struggle of finding the proper balance between gaining respect from their teen and managing the limitation of screen time. A recent study found a correlation between high screen usage amongst teens and increased rates of depression. This reminds us how important it is to have open lines of communication with our teens, as many parents can be unaware of the situations their child is facing online. This could include cyberbullying, technology addiction and even distancing themselves from normal social settings. Remind your teenager of the importance of family during the holiday season by encouraging them to partake in activities that you will both enjoy such as:

  • Volunteering at your local charity
  • Hosting a family board game night
  • Taking them shopping

We hope that these alternative suggestions will give you inspiration for creative ways to manage your child’s screen usage. If this topic still seems to cause a great deal of stress and arguments in your house, consider leaning on other resources to determine if this may be a deeper issue of technology addiction.

 Scott and his team of community advocates work to share industry research, helpful tips, and cybersecurity defense strategies. Their efforts are directed towards helping Internet users keep their information private.