Remember when kids used to have too many books and toys? Now their lives are filled with too many screens. While you are packing up the Christmas ornaments and sorting through old toys to make room for the new, now is the perfect time to declutter the screens in your home.
If you are like most families you have let things get a little out of hand in the “screen department” in your home. For some reason we save all of our hand-me-down screens in hopes that someone else in our home will use them one day. Where are those old tablets? Out-of-date handheld games? How many old laptops do you have in your closet? Did you know that “orphan screens” that parents have lost track of are responsible for much of the first-time porn viewing for our kids? Security is outdated and all they need is a power cord and WIFI connection.
Perhaps you have relaxed your family screen-time rules, or even lost track of your parental controls. Now is a good time to focus on cleaning it all up. So what exactly does this look like?
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Locate and gather all unused screens. Go through all the under-the-bed hiding places, dresser and desk drawers to locate the rest that are hiding and collecting dust. Even if they are not officially activated they can still be used privately by young kids to connect to your WIFI or your neighbors. Your kids may also find them and give them to a friend “in need” without permission. Once you gather all the extra phones, tablets and laptops in your home put them in a box and put them in your car (to get them out of the house) so you can give them away or send them to a company like Gazelle for cash. But hang onto your basic phones. (You can activate them for your teens when you decide to take their smartphones away when they start driving!)
2. Gather all charging cords. Throw away obsolete ones and relocate only what you need to the kitchen (or to your bedroom. Remember kids should not have/charge their devices in their rooms at night!).
3. Buy real alarm clocks for each child, since they won’t have a smartphone or at least won’t have one in their bedroom.
4. If you decide to keep the kid’s smartphones, consider this a great time to clean up all of their apps. Kids today do not need to be on social media. As recent news events and former Facebook investors are revealing, apps like SnapChat and Instagram are targeting our kids and the marketing plans behind them are counting on their addiction. This is something our kids are just not developmentally able to handle. Decide as a family, its time to take a social media break and do life a little differently.
5. Put all video games back in their boxes and remove them from the den and from bedrooms. Bring them out only for intentional play at designated times to keep kids from overusing. If your child is addicted, remove them from your house all together. Yes, this really works!
6. Establish a “home” for each of your family devices. Screens left out on the kitchen counter, coffee table or nightstand simply invite your child to sit down without much thinking. Make sure your screen entertainment is purposeful and requires some level of effort and more importantly permission from you before being used. If the TV has become your home’s natural “MO” for background noise, replace it with music and move the remotes out of site so its not so easy to just flip it on.
7. Reset all parental controls on each device. This will take some time so don’t lose heart. This is another reason to get rid of as many screens as you can.
8. Change the screen passwords on your own phone and home laptops. But naturally curious kids will watch you log in and remember your passwords. Your personal screens should be off-limits to your kids.
Of course there are many more tips but hopefully these will get you started. For this new year remember that the more time your child is on a screen the less time they will spend in real relationships, in real play and in real life.