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Too Much Screen Time? Here’s How to Dial Back

It goes without saying that if you’re taking a prized object away from a child, you’ll need to brace yourself for complaints or tantrums.

That’s why it is important to practice empathy.

“Let them know you understand this will be painful for them,” Dr. Newman said.

Then give them a few options. Would they like to play a board game? Go to the library? Read a book?

“I love anything that’s a little bit funny and dramatic — like charade games or magic kits or stuff like that — because I think when kids feel that natural satisfaction from the fun that comes from those more social games, it makes it easier to replace the media use,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and a lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines on media use among young children.

This is easier said than done when the screen is your child’s preferred activity. If your children are really upset about being transitioned off a tablet or media, Dr. Radesky suggests moving slowly and switching to content that is less “sticky” — that doesn’t use features meant to increase engagement, like autoplay, to reel in your child day after day.

When playing digital games, for example, look for ones that lack multiple levels or “gimmicky rewards,” she said, and seek content that is more open-ended and free form, like the Toca Boca app, which allows children to become storytellers and engage in virtual creative play.

“It’s extremely hard,” she said. “I do tell parents: Write out a daily schedule, make it visual.”

If they follow a schedule, children may have a smoother time transitioning from one activity to another.

Finally, with the holidays coming up, considering buying low-tech board games like Race to the Treasure, Outfoxed! or Royal Rescue. You can also opt to give your child experiences, like an art class or a trip to a museum.

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