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Setting goals for healthy screen time

Once we have monitored a child’s screen behaviours and planned key periods in the week that could be targeted to reduce their screen time, we can set SMART goals to assist us in changing these behaviours.

Set SMART goals

Remember to start with small and achievable changes - this will help you gain self-efficacy or confidence in your ability to enact change. Our goal might be to reduce children’s screen time, but if we keep our goal that broad it might be difficult to achieve. We are more likely to achieve our goals if they are SMART! That is – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-framed. Specific – what exactly do you want to achieve?
Measureable – How can you measure whether you have achieved your goal? How will you know when you have achieved it?
Attainable – Is his something that you are willing and able to do?
Realistic – Can you realistically achieve this goal given the other priorities in your life?
Time-framed – When are you going to start?  When are you going to carry out the actions needed to achieve your goal? (Click to expand) (Adapted from Doran, 1981)

Example SMART goals:

Parental goal: To turn-off the TV during dinner time on Monday and Wednesday next week.

Childcare goal: To eliminate non-educational TV program viewing (viewing that is not embedded in learning activities) on the interactive smart-board during the afternoon period (2-3pm) each day next week.

Remember to record your goals and leave them in a prominent place where you will be reminded of them, like on the fridge or a notice board. It can also be helpful to highlight on your weekly planner the key time period that you are aiming to change, to assist in acting on the planned change.

Review and establish new goals

After the time period for your goal has passed it is time to reflect - hopefully you achieved your goal, which means you are feeling confident and it is time to set a new and potentially more challenging goal.

However, changing behaviours can often be harder than we think - maybe you didn’t achieve your goal and you are feeling a little deflated. Use this opportunity to brainstorm solutions to problem-solve the situation, and try to discuss these with others, such as your partner, other parents/carers, or other educators. Once you feel you have a new strategy in place, set new SMART goals and build these strategies into the goals. For example:

Parental goal: To prepare non-screen-based play activities (e.g. blocks, drawing, toys, etc.) on Monday and Tuesday night, so that my child has a screen-free morning before preschool and doesn’t eat breakfast in front of the television on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

See page 3 of the document in the downloads section for an example of ways to plan for goals using a screen time diary.

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This article is from the free online course:

Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living

University of Wollongong