how to get your child to turn off the tv: child having a tantrum and screaming

As much as we KNOW that it’s better for kids to be climbing trees outside than watching Peppa Pig, we also need to get REAL and appreciate that us parents need a break – to make the dinner; to have a phone call; to not parent for a short time of the day or to drink our G&T without the short people talking to us. The truth is, when our kids are little, we, the parents, often need the screen for our kids more than our kids need the screen. And that’s ok.

While there are guidelines as to the what/when and how much screens our little ones should watch, we know that no matter what is on the screen, turning it off is likely to cause a meltdown of epic proportions. So how do we allow some parent time out without causing World War Three when it’s time to turn off?

Here are some tried and tested methods from screen experts, Sarah and Pam (who also happen to be parents) at Klikd:

1. Forget about the countdown

Little kids have no concept of time whatsoever. And so, while you may think you are preparing your kid for their drug withdrawal by saying “5 minutes left, 2 minutes left” etc… this actually has very little meaning in kid world. Instead, agree at the outset on number of episodes or number of videos.

2. Disable autoplay

Autoplay is the revolving sushi station feature of streaming channels such as Netflix/Showmax or YouTube that serves up another episode or video the minute one is finished. Disabling Autoplay means you have to actually click on each video before watching, they don’t simply show up the minute one video ends.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Is social media REALLY to blame for your child’s poor mental health?

3. The “emotional vaccination”

In the early years, our children are developing circuitry for what feels good in their bodies. It may come as no surprise, but watching TV while doing absolutely nothing sends a message to our kids’ bodies that “this feels good.” It’s the same reason we watch TV – we want to unwind, turn our minds off and disappear for a while. The challenge with too much screen time for little ones is it can have the effect of lowering their frustration tolerance for activities which don’t bring immediate gratification or which don’t include sedentary behaviour.

In other words, too much screen time can cause our kids to expect that “this is how all things should feel in my body.” This also leads to dysregulated behaviour when it’s time to come off the screen.

how to get your child to turn off the tv: child crying and having a tantrum

A nifty trick to help make the transition to “off screen life” less difficult for our kids is to give them what clinical psychologist Dr Becky Kennedy calls the “emotional vaccination” – preparing them out of the moment for a tricky feeling they will experience IN a specific moment.

So the conversation may go something like this:
“I know when you watch TV it feels really good in your body. I also love watching TV. When it’s time to turn the TV off, it doesn’t feel very good, does it? I also don’t like it when I have to get off the TV because I really want to carry on watching.” (side note: imagine if you were watching Bridgerton Season 1 and someone turned off your TV just when things were getting steamy with the Duke – you would have a meltdown too!)

Then – when you are back in the moment of turning off the TV, remind your child of the conversation: “Remember what we chatted about, I know this doesn’t feel good, I’m sorry, I also don’t like having to turn the TV off. Let’s go and do a puzzle etc.”

4. Give back some of the power

Allow your child to turn off the device him/herself to bring back a sense of control.

5. Provide a trade-out activity

Provide an immediate trade-out activity such as “The TV is off, let’s put on some music” to make the transition to screen-free life less dramatic.

ALSO READ: Keeping your kids safe online – the BEST apps for parental control

Above all, get help where it’s needed:

Sign up to Klikd’s “First Device” Mini Downloadable Workshop. This workshop gives you everything you need to know when it comes to managing your kids and their screens (from setting appropriate boundaries, setting up the device for safety and actual scripts you can use to avoid the power struggle.

It’s made up of 4 x short 15 minute videos that you can watch in your own time and comes along with a First Device Contract for you and your child, safety guides and so much more! Sign up HERE.

BYY readers can get 25% off the First Device Mini Workshop. Use the coupon code BABYYUMYUM at checkout and you’ll pay R250 instead of R336! 

Good luck out there!
Wishing you more scream-free screen time!

Klikd interactive app logo
Klikd is an educational company focused on providing tools for busy families and professionals to flourish in a digital world. It was started by Sarah Hoffman and Pam Tudin and their flagship product, the Klikd app is an innovative educational app geared at equipping kids and teens to navigate the digital world safely and successfully, giving parents and educators the sigh of relief they have been waiting for.