How To Make Screen Time Healthier For The Whole Family

June 12, 2024

Screen time might be the family’s guilty secret whenever you need a babysitter so you can cook dinner, or when you are all too tired to do anything other than flop in front of the TV, but you know what? It does not have to be something you worry about. In fact, it can be a great asset to every family, especially if you learn how to make screen time healthier…

1. Educational Games For The Win

I think we can all agree that not all screen time is created equal. Swap out some of those mindless click-fest games for educational ones that actually tease the brain into learning something. There are tons of options out there, from puzzles that stretch your spatial reasoning to adventure games that teach coding, history, or even a new language, and old classics like minesweeper that help to develop logic. And yes, they can be just as addictive as sending emojis to grandma.

2. Create A Family Media Plan

Creating a family media plan might seem like a lot of unnecessary work when you already have tones of stuff to do, but it is a great way to keep things, fun healthy and on the right track, It will allow you to lay down goals and boundaries from screen time, ensuring that you are all watching, playing and using apps that enhance your family life, instead of detract from it. Plus, when the kids know what’s expected of them, there will be fewer tantrums all round.

3. Turn TV Time Into Learning Time

Who says you cannot teach an old dog new tricks with a few episodes of “Planet Earth”? Turn documentaries or educational shows into a springboard for family discussions or activities. Watch a show about marine life and then plan a trip to the aquarium. Or, after a program on cooking, have a family cook-off where everyone makes a dish inspired by what they watched. Learning does not have to be confined to the classroom or the screen.

4. Be Smart About Smartphones

Smartphones might do everything from ordering pizza to letting you stay in touch with friends, but if you do not use them wisely, then they can be a negative, rather than a plus, in your daily life. So, be sure to encourage smart smartphone use by modeling it yourself. That means no phones at the dinner table, and yes, that rule applies to everyone, even if you are the President of the United States or the Queen of England during teatime.

5. Active Screen Time

Something that a lot of people seem to overlook is that not all screen time has to be sedentary. It is totally possible to get moving while using your phone, whether you are playing Pokemon Go, and hunting for those cute little monsters around the neighborhood or dancing together as you play Spotify.

6. Tech-Free Times

As great as screens are, breaks are essential. Designate tech-free times or zones in the house where no screens are allowed, like during meal times or an hour before bed. This helps everyone disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the real one. Maybe you will discover that your sibling is actually a pretty cool person, not just a Snapchat ghost.

7. Encourage Creation, Not Just Consumption

Encourage your kids (and hey, yourself too) to use screens for creating, not just consuming. This can be writing stories, making movies, coding games, or even composing music. There are apps and programs for all sorts of creative endeavors. Who knows? Your family might just produce the next viral YouTube hit or at least something hilarious to share at family gatherings.

8. Watch Together

Make screen time a joint activity. Watching a movie as a family or playing a video game together not only makes the experience more social, but it also gives you a chance to discuss what you’re seeing and learning. Plus, it is a perfect opportunity to sneak in some of those family values or life lessons without sounding too preachy.

9. Quality Over Quantity

When it comes to screen time, quality trumps quantity every time. It’s way better to spend 30 minutes watching a well-made educational video than three hours mindlessly scrolling through social media. Teach your kids how to choose quality content by discussing what they are watching and why it might be good (or not so good) for them.

10. Use Tech To Stay Connected

In a twist of irony, use technology to enhance family relationships rather than diminish them. Set up family chat groups, share calendars, or play multiplayer games online together. Technology, when used wisely, can help families stay connected, even when life gets hectic.

11. Encourage Digital Literacy

Emphasize the importance of digital literacy by integrating learning how the internet works, understanding digital footprints, and recognizing credible sources online. Teach your children (and maybe learn alongside them) about online privacy and the ethical use of digital content. This can be done through educational websites, interactive games, and even family discussions about recent news related to technology.

12. Interactive Language Learning

Use screen time as an opportunity for the whole family to learn a new language together. Apps like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone offer family-friendly courses that make language learning fun and interactive. Set goals like basic conversational fluency or mastering a set number of words each month, and celebrate these milestones as a family.

13. Virtual Travel Experiences

While actual travel might be limited, virtual travel can be an enriching way to use screen time. Explore different countries through virtual tours of museums, historical sites, or natural wonders. Services like Google Earth or virtual reality apps can provide immersive experiences that are both educational and exciting, sparking discussions about culture, geography, and history.

14. Online Art And Music Appreciation

Dedicate some screen time to explore art and music. Many symphonies, operas, and ballets offer online performances. Similarly, world-class museums provide virtual tours and online exhibits. Discuss each family member’s impressions and favorites. This not only enhances artistic appreciation but also introduces children to a wide range of cultural experiences.

15. Science And DIY Project Tutorials

Utilize YouTube and other educational platforms to engage in science experiments or DIY projects that can be done at home. Choose projects that vary in complexity based on your children’s ages and interests. Whether it is building a simple volcano or creating a home garden, these activities are fun, educational, and provide practical applications of scientific concepts.

16. Schedule Online Family Game Nights

Organize online game nights using digital board games, trivia apps, or multiplayer video games that are suitable for all ages. Games like “Ticket to Ride”, “Heads Up!” or even “Minecraft” offer opportunities for fun and learning through play. This not only makes screen time interactive but also builds family bonds.

17. Develop A Review System

After watching shows or movies, encourage your children to create reviews. They could rate what they watched and write a short summary of what they learned or liked about it. This exercise helps develop critical thinking and analytical skills. You can even have a family blog where these reviews are posted, adding to the sense of accomplishment.

18. Coding And Web Development

Coding is not just an essential skill for the future; it is also a fantastic way to use screen time constructively. Introduce your kids to basic coding through fun platforms like Scratch or Tynker, where they can create games or animations. For older children, consider more advanced resources like Codecademy or free courses from universities that can be accessed through platforms like Coursera or edX.

19. Keep The Conversation Going

The digital landscape is always changing, and so are its impacts on our lives. Keep the conversation about screen use ongoing. Check in with each other about what’s working and what is not, and be ready to adjust the rules as needed. It is not about setting restrictions in stone; it is about adapting to the digital age in a way that benefits everyone.

Screen time does not have to be a guilty pleasure or a necessary evil you know? As you can see, it can actually be a fun informative, bonding experience for the whole family. It is all about how you use it!

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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