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Give screen time a purpose: Create a viewing calendar

(FILE)

May is Screen Free Month, and health experts say planning your screen time in advance is one way to cut down on your family's time with technology.

If you find yourself or your family spending hours a day staring at screens, SSM Health Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Tara Kempker said it might be time for a moderation check.

"Pick out some shows that everybody likes, and limit viewing time to that one show tonight, or these two shows the next night," she said.

Kempker called that practice creating a viewing calendar. She said it's her solution for not letting technology take over her family.

According to Kempker, planning screen time in advance doesn't just cut down on TV, tablet, and phone use - it also increases communication.

"Talking about what shows do you like, what shows do I like, finding shows that you can watch together... That way there's the ability to have some discussion," she said. "Make it kind of a family time, so it's not just kids off in the the room watching whatever they want to watch on TV."

Kempker said HealthyChildren.org is a great starting point for families new to media planning.

"When you're on the site, click through what you're watching, when you would turn it off, what you would have on, and how to have that conversation with your kids," she said.

Kempker said screen time guidelines can keep kids from overdoing tech time, but that doesn't mean rules have to be unreasonably rigid.

"You can have moderation and schedule it in so it becomes more of a family event, time spent together as a family," she said.

This May, work towards making TV, tablet, and cell phone use a time to tune in together - instead of a time to tune out alone.

Watch KRCG 13 at 5 p.m. next Friday for our next Family First segment. We'll talk with a physician about the benefit of offering alternatives to screen time.

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