Listen, we totally get it - it's hard to motivate kids, and using rewards is something that works (most of the time). Is it a bribe? Sure. Is it right? Probably not. Does it make getting them to do what they need to do easier? Yes! Plenty of parents use a reward system to manage or redirect their child's behavior. Hell, even adults like to have a carrot dangled in front of them every once in a while for some motivation, right? But, when it comes to screen time (which we're all trying to limit in one way or another), using it as a reward for good behavior or as a motivation for behavior redirection can just lead to more screen time. According to new research, trying to control your kids' behavior using screen time increases the amount of time they spend in front of screens.
The study was published in the journal BMC Obesity. Researchers looked at how parenting practices were impacting the amount of time kids spend on screens. 62 children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years old participated, as well as 68 parents. The data shows that kids spend an average of 1.5 hours looking at screens during the week, and just over two hours on weekends. Which makes sense, since they spend more time at home on weekends and generally have more free time. More than half of parents involved in the study reported using screen time as a way to control their kids' behavior. This resulted in kids spending, on average, an extra 20 minutes in front of screens on the weekends.
Parents were asked how they monitor screen time, when their kids are allowed screen time, and whether or not they participate in screen time with their kids. They reported using screen time as a motivation tool to get their kids to do things or redirect behavior, much like we use bribes in different ways as parents. But, if your goal is to cut down on your child's screen time, using it to change behavior isn't the best idea (do you limit other screen time after giving them more? Probably not!). So maybe find a new way to motivate your kiddos, and look for ways they can entertain themselves on weekends that don't involve screens.