A New Way To End Screen Time Without Tantrums

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There is plenty of advice around about how much screen time kids should get but what happens at the end of screen time? How do you get them to put it down?

The 10 minute warning or setting a timer are good strategies in theory but they rarely work as well as I’d like.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my screen time struggles. If your house is anything like mine, there are a LOT of tantrums. Or they just ignore me.

The good news is we can all stop feeling like such a bad parents because there is actually a scientific reason why kids (and adults!) can’t easily put down screens.

It has to do with the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is all about pleasure and rewards, being produced while we are engrossed in an enjoyable activity such as staring at those hypnotising screens.

If this activity is interrupted abruptly, for example by a grumpy mum unplugging you, then the sudden drop in dopamine levels is an unpleasant shock to the system.

Cue tantrums.

Which makes perfect sense.  After all, I don’t know many folk who like being interrupted when doing something they enjoy.

However, an article I read recently shared a brilliant way of ending the tantrums when its time to down screens.

Attributed to French parenting guru Isabelle Filliozat, the strategy involves what’s described as “building a bridge” to ease your kids away from their screens and back to the real world.

Essentially, rather than telling your child to turn the screen off, you spend a moment engaging with them about what they are doing or watching. This helps bring them out of their trance and makes the transition back to the real world less jarring.

I’ve been giving this a go with my 4 year old YouTube Kids-addict and it really does work.

I usually try something like this: “What is Miss Hands unboxing now? Do you think it will be another Disney Princess figurine?”

And magically, I get a response.

If I’d asked her if she saw a monkey fly past the window, she wouldn’t have heard me. There is something about connecting with what they are doing that helps draw them out.

Sometimes it takes a little prompting, and sometimes I get sucked into lengthy debates about the merits of each Disney Princess, but the reaction is much better than if I had used my usual “Screens down NOW” approach.

Do you have trouble getting your kids to put screens down? Do you think this strategy would work for them?

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Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

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