(Remote) Control Freak: 5 Ways to Reign in Your Toddler's Screen Time

5 ways to reign in your toddler's screen time5 ways to reign in your toddler's screen timeWith the acquisition of a Leap Pad for Christmas and a family iPad, things have gotten a little hairy around here. A situation we're not unfamiliar with, my 3-year-old has been a steadfast, walking iPhone endorsement since he first learned how to swipe the little arrow bar over to get to his beloved baby apps at age 1.

So young.

Too much technology?

Perhaps.

But.

We are a couple of parents who love technology ourselves and have careers that revolve around the heavy usage of said "equipment." So. Obviously our little ones want to be doing what we are doing, and who am I to deny them this occasional pleasure?

Related: 20 reasons why the toddler stage is my favorite

To be honest, I'd rather let them play the interactive learning apps that you can download onto an iPad or a Leap OPad, than stick them in front of the boob-tube for some Cailou or Sponge Bob.

I think the important thing is to try in reign in that screen time. Which can be more than tricky because those games are so fun, so enjoyed by little eyes and minds that they want to stick their faces into them ALL. THE. TIME. We started to get into a senario of Wyndham having a melt-down if we didn't hand over one of the said screens pronto.

Obviously this is not enjoyable for anyone, and probably not something that should be given in to. It is of my personal opinion that children shouldn't rely solely on the wiles of screen-technology for their learning, entertainment and enjoyment. We're supposed to be a part of that equation. As is nature, the world around them, socializing with other people, being active and sticking their nose in books from time to time rather than screens.

We've narrowed it down to no more than 1.5 hours per day of screen time for our little ones, which includes all of it - collectively. YouTube video watching, app game playing, Netflix, you name it. Except for, on the occasion that we have a family movie night or one of us is solo-parenting for long stretches of time. (Which is me, since my musician partner tours quite a bit.) The "rules" aren't so strict then. And that's okay.

It can be a hard lesson for both parent and child, in not giving in the the wails and demands. Below are some the ways we curb in screen time and aim for avoiding a melt-down in the first place…

1 Create set times (not in stone) for screen time
For our family morning screen time is pretty regulatory - during the wee hours when perhaps mom and dad need a few more zzz's. Discussing these times with our son, ad-nauseum at times, is very important in helping him understand these parameters and aid in respecting his feelings regarding his disappointment, not being able to do what he wants, etc. (As opposed to setting rules without discussion, and then wondering why our kid flips out.) This obviously doesn't always work, but it does help.

2. Choose those times to be when you need to be doing something else
Prepping a meal, folding laundry, have a shower, etc. Screen time should benefit both the kids AND the parents, I mean - right? I'm sure some expert would disagree with me, which is fine. I get less and less requests for screen time during family time this way. For example, my son now understands that the evenings are for us to hang-out with each-other and engage in activities that don't always revolve around a screen. Which he's more than fine with, because I'm spending quality time with him!

3. Create a verbal dialogue based on mutual respect
Our son may only use his Leap Pad or the iPhone or iPad when he uses his manners. He's learning pretty quickly that repetitive requests don't help his cause any. When his time is nearing an end, I give him a reminder that this is his last game, short video, whatever. I gently remind him and ask that he responds to me that he understands and the verbalize that he will hand it back to me without me having to take it away. This actually works. I swear. Not always, but more and more regularly. The more consistent we are, the more he is too.

4. Out of sight, out of mind
We keep the Leap Pad in a cupboard and try not to open our computers or use the iPad a bunch around our kids. Of course, there are times that we do (outside of work-stuff, I use the iPad for recipes when I'm cooking, for plugging into the stereo to listen to music, etc.) and it's okay for them to learn that, nope - they can't have it, it's mom or dad's turn.

5. Respect their time
I have way more success in taking any one of the screens when I let him finish his game or watching a video or show. Cutting him off mid-stream is a guaranteed blow-out.

- By Selena Burgess
Follow Selena on Babble

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