Ask Titania: How Do I Get My Kids Off Screens?
I'm feeling so frustrated and defeated! We recently moved to a new city away from warm weather, friends, and lots of outdoor activities. My two tweens get bored when I encourage them to play in the yard and most entertainment here consists of me driving them places and spending money. I’ve noticed my kids stay inside more and spend way too much time on screens. I feel like their childhood is being robbed. They often play and chat through Roblox, and my kids claim this is the only way they can stay in touch with their long-distance friends. I’ve tried to set screen time rules but it never seems to work. Please help me regain balance in our family time.
Stressed by Screens
Dear Stressed by Screens,
Oh boy, this one’s tough. Moving is never easy for anyone in the family — especially when it takes longer than expected to settle in. Also, screens are becoming an inevitable part of our daily lives. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to reduce screen time! So give yourself grace. We see you, and we see that you just want better for your family, too. Let’s take a look at some ideas you can try with your kiddos.
Put Yourself Out There!
It sounds like your kids need to make some connections with the new community. If they haven’t made new friends yet, then it’s understandable why they are holding on to their familiar long-distance relationships. Try scheduling time as a family each week to explore your community together and find ways that your kids could meet some peers.
Just thinking of a few, you could try…
- Local play groups (check social media for neighborhood groups to join)
- Events at your local library
- Sports teams — both to play and to watch
- Science museums
- Youth groups
- An affordable family gym membership
- Religious organizations
- After-school activities
- Art or drama clubs
- Volunteer opportunities
A lot of times, making friends and building relationships is a slow process and requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Your kids may object to trying something new but hey — everyone in the family is trying something new to adapt to the new place. So if you’re in it together, hopefully, that makes it a little easier.
A Nudge in the Right Direction
As far as screen time at home, that’s also going to be a team effort. Many families have found it helpful to create clear expectations and boundaries for everyone to follow. Oftentimes, kids follow by example rather than taking explicit direction, so be sure you take an active role in managing your own screen time as well. And writing down the new screen-time expectations can be very helpful. If you all sit down and come up with a list of rules, you can hang it up somewhere in the house that’s visible to everyone. That way, you have something physical to reference when you start to hear, “But Mom, five more minutes!”
Here are some tech boundaries to test-run in your home:
- Scheduling tech-free hours or tech-free weekend days.
- Weekly board game nights where kids take turns choosing the game and snacks for each week.
- Setting an allotted time for them to be online to talk to their long-distance friends.
- Playing some of their online games with them, as another way to bond with them.
- Making tech time family time with a movie night, trivia on the smart TV, or a Mario Kart tournament.
And some alternative activities during tech-free time:
- Going for a walk or a bike ride together
- Cooking or baking new recipes
- Reading actual books or magazines (old-school ones are super fun)
- Choose a new hobby for them to learn (like painting, juggling, yoga, crocheting, etc.)
A Final Thought
Remember that our kids are growing up in a much different world than what we once grew up in. Much the same as we stretched the 10-foot telephone cord down the hall and spent endless hours talking to our friends, your kids are likely doing the same — except these days the chatting is done online instead of on a telephone. They still crave connection and socialization, but it just looks different nowadays. And remember, our parents were concerned about too much TV time. Now we are, too — there just happens to be way more screens than one big one in the living room.
Balance and consistency are key! It may take some trial and error, but once you know the rules that work for your family, you’ll want to stick to your guns! Your family is finding their new normal, which is really daunting — but also an exciting adventure! Best wishes in your new transition!
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.