Cutting-off screen time activities after, maybe, an hour or two each day is a longstanding battle for parents.
Give your child any pocket of unstructured free time and you’re looking at a sizable test of your child’s self-control, and of your parenting skills. We’re here to tell you…you can do this. Just remember a couple important tips when it comes to limiting – or not limiting – your child’s screen time.
Kids’ screen time is at all-time highs, according to Digiday. Easy access to smartphones, tablets, TVs, laptops and other devices has seen to that. Throw in the convenience of high-speed internet and there’s a wide world of digital entertainment at their fingertips.
Experts recommend a shift in thinking. Don’t focus on how long the screen time is, but instead how good the screen time is. In fact, it’s being recommended you avoid using the term “screen time” as a catch-all phrase and remember that different screens offer different experiences – Including positive ones. Your child can benefit from FaceTiming with family members, interacting with educational programming like PBS Kids, and playing online strategy games like chess.
There are many sources of quality content, so your child’s not binge-watching mindless YouTube videos – though there’s time for this too. Remember, screen time can benefit your child in different ways. Consider, for example, online video games like Minecraft, Fortnite, and Overwatch. These are a main source of your teenager’s social connection –yet another way a parent’s perspective needs to adapt to a new normal.
Yes, we’re talking about easing your screen time expectations, but your personal discretion still has a place as the best measure for how long your kids should spend with their devices. You know your child better than anyone else and just like other areas of parenting, your consistency plays a key role in limiting screen time. This is why it’s important to set a clear-cut and mutually agreed upon plan for how long your child can be on screen.
Most kids like structure (whether they realize it or not), and with schools being dismissed for summer you become their only structure. Having consistently followed expectations will set a baseline and prove especially valuable if you’re working at home and not able to check in all the time.
Some things you’ll want to keep in mind include:
Part of having a reasonable set of screen time rules should include encouraging your child to self-regulate. Make your plan empower them to turn off the screen and switch to an offline activity all by themselves. There’s enough stress and anxiety in both your lives right now. Put a positive spin on this conversation.
Success in carrying out a regulated but increased screen time mindset must include having alternative activities as fall back options. Just as screen time quality should be established and agreed upon, so should having a set of tech-free activities your child enjoys.
Plan Things like ready-to-go craft stations, puzzle tables, cooking classes before meals, dancing sessions during break times, and pre-scripted scavenger hunts around your house work well to mix it up. A little extra planning tonight goes a long way toward a peaceful tomorrow.
Be sure to try and move in the direction of your child’s specific interests. (It might take a little carefully planned craft or activity shopping to help facilitate this.) Give them a list of what to do offline and you’ll eliminate the “but I’m bored!” claims that typically lead to arguments we’ve all had with our kids.
Never forget that your behavior plays a major role here. If your child sees you spending all your free time looking at your smartphone or laptop, they will follow suit.
For additional impact, make sure your child sees the effort you’re making to put down the phone. Keep a basket in a visible location near your main family gathering space where phones are kept. When devices go in the basket, it’s a clear sign that screens are switched off and your children are the main focus.
Screen time creates a challenge for you and your kids, but if managed properly, it’s a helpful tool for keeping your child entertained, educated, and occupied in positive ways. You can do this by monitoring their screen time for quality content, balancing offline activities, and modeling your own screen time behavior.
Always keep in mind – above all your main concern is for the health and enrichment of your children. If you make this your default rule, you can ensure they have a nice activity to supplement their free time.