It’s fun entertainment, and so easy to plop kids in front of to keep them busy while you get things done. However, how much TV and video games is too much?

If you discover your children are spending too much time in front of the big screen or hand-held device, it’s time to learn how to help them cut back on screen time and focus on healthier activities.

Every family is different and, within each family, every child responds differently to television and video games. Some families have a higher or lower tolerance for how much is healthy.

Studies indicate that many children watch enough TV and spend enough time playing video games to constitute a full-time job. A Nielsen study reported that kids are spending an average of 55 hours a week watching TV, playing video games or texting. The bottom line, however, is that it’s up to individual parents to decide how much is too much. Some tell-tale signs that these devices have taken over include:

Losing Sleep 

Is your child groggy when it’s time to wake up in the morning or does she refuse to go to sleep at night? It could be due to too much screen time overloading her senses. Though many children sleep with a night light and some adults drift off to sleep in front of their favorite shows, sleep experts claim that deep healthy sleep cannot be completely attained in a room with a television set.

One way to wean off of the habit of relying on a lit-up screen to lull your child to sleep is to set a sleep timer that will automatically shut it off after a chosen amount of time, or to not allow TV sets in the bedroom, including hand held devices.

Screen Fixation

Does your child seem agitated or anxious whenever he or she does not have a game controller or TV remote in hand? If the only thing your child talks about or concentrates on is how to get to the next level on a game or what the next episode of a television program will be about, it just might be time to limit viewing or gaming and replace this time with a variety of other interests.

Choosing TV or Video Games over Face-to-Face Conversation

When given a choice, if your child backs away from face-to-face conversation and hides behind a video game or continues to stare at a television screen, seemingly mindlessly, there could be a problem.

Acting Out

Certainly, if your child begins to act out violently or you notice him or her imitating the behavior of a favorite TV star, it’s time to begin exposing him or her to healthier role models. At the very least, swap out violent games for those rated E for Everyone, or choose only family-friendly programming.

If you’ve observed your child and determined there is a problem, it’s time to take action. This daunting task of weaning your child away from these entertaining devices and onto healthier choices may seem overwhelming. After all, the only reason they got started enjoying these devices in the first place was probably because it kept them entertained and happy. Now that these devices that have kept your child happily contented for hours seem to actually be a problem, how do you cut back and help your child learn self-control?

Like a city that is broken down and without walls is a man whose spirit is without restraint. —Proverbs 25:28

Little by Little 

Cut back 15 minutes of video game playing or one-half hour of TV viewing every week. It may seem like this small amount of time doesn’t make any significant difference, but over the course of several weeks, it adds up to hours of TV viewing and gaming time.

Don’t Eliminate … Replace 

Replace TV viewing or gaming with activities that get your child up and moving or interacting with others. Don’t turn this into a punishment; instead make a face-to-face fun game out of personal conversation. Ask open-ended questions that are entertaining, thought-provoking and about any topic other than a television show or a video game. 

After you’ve weaned your children off their addiction to the tube, you’ll see positive changes.

Even though you might have turbulent times changing up your child’s routine away from the set, they’ll thank you later that you did. It might be weeks, months or even years down the road, but it’ll be worth it.

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