Kids & Technology: Tips to Limit Screen Time

Dear Gigi:
As I’m sure you are aware, entertainment options for families during the cold months are limited in the Fargo/Moorhead area.
When our kids were younger, it seemed like it was so much easier to keep them entertained without electronics during the winter months. But now that they’re older (5 and 9 years old), it has become a challenge to keep them engaged and amused during weekends and school out day, without mindlessly consuming video games and shows.
Of course, we encourage them to play with toys and each other as much as we can, but inevitably they always end up glued to their tablets for hours at a time. So, what can we do to help our kids unplug?
—Tangled in Tech


Dear Tangled in Tech:

Ah, deep winter — what a challenging time of year! I agree that it’s tough to keep our kids active during the winter months. Especially when our region’s severe cold and blustery conditions limit our outside activities.

Thankfully, we have the luxury of video games, movies, shows, and social media to entertain us and stave off boredom in this day and age. And in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing wrong with taking a bit of time to veg out. Using free time to watch a movie or a bit of online world-building — we all do it from time to time.

But it is essential for us to teach our children how much is too much of a good thing. To set appropriate limits regarding technology.

Earn Screen Time

One of the ways I have successfully navigated electronics exposure has been by having kids earn screen time with daily mindfulness and task lists. These lists are full of activities that your little ones must complete before watching shows or playing video games.

First, sit down with your kids and discuss your feelings on what too much screen time looks like to you, then have them help brainstorm daily tasks and activities they can complete to earn their free day screen time.

I make it a point to include at least two household chores and a minimum of 30 minutes each of books/reading, physical activity, and enrichment a day.

Physical activity can be anything from a family dance party to running up and down the stairs. Have an all-fours freeze tag game or a one-armed pillow fight. You can even shovel snow for an elderly neighbor to get some much-needed exercise.

Enrichment can be finger painting, coloring, a family puzzle, or building a Kiwi crate together.

Be sure to also include your children’s daily morning routine (eating breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc.) on their list to help keep healthy habits going, even on long weekends and school breaks.

And don’t forget that it is just as important to model the behavior you want from your children, as well. You can’t expect your pint-sized replicas to cut their screen time if you aren’t willing to do the same.

Blackout Nights

If culling your own electronic engagement doesn’t sound at all appealing, another way to help your kids and you unplug is by scheduling weekly “Blackout Nights.” Blackout Nights work well for families who have plenty of outside social engagement but need to reconnect at home without the interference of electronic interaction.

Pick one night each week to put away all electronics, and have the whole family come together to help cook/clean up dinner and play board games. You can even have a fun family weekend outing by heading to local store Game Giant to find a few new tabletop board games. Blackout Nights encourage familial communication and help to build bonds that will last a lifetime.

I grew up with Blackout Nights as a kid, and I have to admit those evenings are some of the best memories I have from my childhood. To this day, we use Blackout Nights in our household, and it is a tradition I am proud to have passed on to our son.


But if cooking and board games aren’t your jam, you can always set aside a few hours each week to volunteer together as a family. Many volunteer opportunities are available to families across the Red River Valley, from serving meals to needy folks to collecting items for a local food pantry.

Just be sure to let the organization’s volunteer coordinators know that you want to volunteer as a family, and provide your kids ages so that they can accommodate you in their space.

Whatever you decide to do as a family to unplug and reconnect, make sure your solution is sustainable and fun for everyone. Be sure to check in with your kids from time to time once you’ve established an unplugged routine and amend your mindset as needed so that your children feel heard and respected.

In time, with consistently modeled behavior and reasonable expectations, your kids will learn how to entertain themselves easily without the use of screens and devices.

You’ve got this!


Have a question for Gigi regarding parenting or kids? E-mail [email protected] to ask, and she’ll consider it for her next article!

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Gigi Kolbe
Being a parent is hard work even at the best of times, amirite? From that first poopy diaper to even after you send them off to college, figuring out the best way to raise your children is the toughest job you'll ever love. So, where do you turn when you need time-tested advice for those hard questions and the questions you never knew you had? Hi, I'm Gigi, and I'm here to lend you a helping hand and remind you that "You've Got This." With nearly a quarter-century of experience as a professional nanny, I have pretty much seen it and heard it all. And if there's one thing I've come to realize over the years, it's that parents always seem to have the same sort of questions. "How can I tell when my baby is teething?" "Why is my toddler pinching us?" "When should we tell our child we are having another baby?" "Why won't my kid sleep through the night?!" Questions like these can cause all sorts of doubt and uncertainty for parents. I have seen how difficult it can be when you don't know what to do and need help. And I also understand how crucial it is for parents to know they aren't alone and that their concerns are being listened to with a compassionate ear. It brings me so much joy to help parents and their little ones navigate life's unexpected hiccups. So no matter your worry, woe, quandary, or conundrum, there is an answer, and above all: You've Got This!


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