Every family will have different amounts of time they think is ‘enough’ and will have different values, tolerances and expectations around screen time. Also all children are different and so we can allow and expect different things from them when it comes to screen time.
We need to keep in mind that not all screen time is bad and after all, IT IS the future. But it’s all about creating healthy habits and balance. It’s about involving the child but at the end of the day we should not be afraid to be in charge.
Why we should be managing children’s screen time:
- Children who don’t have screens in their bedroom sleep better and are more focused and fresh in the morning and ready for the day ahead.
- Children who have a balanced life are less prone to developing psychological difficulties such as hyperactivity, lack of focus, emotional and behavioural problems and difficulties with peers.
- Schools say that kids who spend less time on gadgets do better academically, are better at paying attention, less aggressive and function better socially.
- The school thought that this was down to the fact that these children had parents who were confident with setting consistent and fair rules around screen time.
Here’s how it works:
- Problem solve together: nobody likes to be told what to do or not to do and if your kids have a say in the schedule, they’ll be more likely to follow it. CLICK here to read more about ‘how to help child problem solve’
- Tell him your issues and what you are hoping to achieve and ask if he has any ideas of how to do this.
- Talk about balance: that you don’t mind him being on screens, but he also needs to do homework, activities, chores at home, get good sleep, fresh air and exercise etc. Try to make it more about making a ‘balanced daily routine’, than about ‘limiting screen time’. You can then add screen time in between a balanced routine.
- Ask them what they need from you i.e. reminders, stop nagging
- Come from a place of Listening, Understanding and Accepting: ’I hear that you want more screen time, I understand that you like it and have fun while on it and that all your friends are allowed …so let’s find a solution to this.’
- Make it a CAN plan: together agree what they CAN watch and when they CAN instead of CAN’T. This will change the attitude at home and create a positive language, so screen time is not just related to negativity, nagging, shouting and frustration. e. You can watch an hour of xx at xx or you can play ‘that’ game for 30 minutes a day. You can go on it when you have done your homework etc.
- Don’t go cold turkey: if your kids usually have hours of TV or gaming daily make gradual changes so you don’t make it too hard for yourself and the child is more likely to accept it.
- Re-evaluate the agreement: agree that the first plan is a ‘short term trial’, and that you will talk about it and see how it works in a week’s time.
How to implement the plan:
- Reminder: start by reminding the child about his screen time, ‘Sam, in 20 minutes it is time to turn off the computer’
- Connect before correct: it is a good idea to go and sit next to your child for 5 or 10 minutes before he has to end screen time. This way you have made a positive connection and he is more likely to want to cooperate. Show an interest in what he does.
- Have connection after getting off the screen: it can be hard to go straight from doing something fun to do i.e. homework. You can add some connection in between screen time and tasks. Easier to say ‘time to get off screen but we can go and bake a cake, jump on the trampoline’ etc
- Less is more: when it is time to turn off, just refer to the ‘agreement’. ‘Right Sam, as agreed it is now time to go and XX’. Don’t use too many words. Don’t try to convince or negotiate just keep to the plan.
- Honour your agreement: if you have agreed that he can play games for 2 hrs on Saturday afternoon (or do other things) don’t nag him to get off, or that he spends too much time on screen. leave him alone to do what you agreed he could
Dealing with resistance to following the routine:
- Be consistent: every time you give in or give up you will make it so much harder for yourself next time. You teach the child that he just has to try harder at getting away with not doing what was agreed.
- CONTROL YOURSELF: before you deal with your child’s resistance, behaviour or request STOP, BREATHE, check in with your emotions, accept them as they are and let go. Remind yourself it is normal that kids try to get away with not turning off their screens and you just need to stay firm, measured and consistent. Remind yourself also that the measurement of a good routine doesn’t just depend on the child’s behaviour but on ours and how we feel, i.e. that we stay calm and consistent and feel we dealt well with it afterwards without losing it or giving in.
- Allow them to have a reaction: when your child is resistant to following the screen routine STOP, BREATHE and THINK, ‘It’s not my job to control how they feel, I can only control my own emotions.’ It’s OK for them to say NO or that they don’t want to etc.
- Listen, even though you don’t agree: once you have allowed them to have a reaction try to show them that you hear them, LISTEN: ‘I can hear you are angry right now, I understand that you are angry because you don’t want to turn off the iPad, and that is OK.’ But that doesn’t change the fact that he needs to do it. Sometimes listening is all it takes to get your child back to co-operating with you. So don’t see it as a failure from your side or theirs – accept it and then deal with it.
- Give directions: tell them what you want to see NOT what you don’t want i.e. ‘it’s time to have dinner’ instead of ‘STOP screaming’.
- What is behind the resistance? Stay curious, not furious: are they tired, upset, sad, hungry etc.? Is the schedule not realistic or understood, do we need to re-evaluate and change it? Remember that it is only a trial and there should always be room to go back and say, ‘Right that didn’t work! OK, so how might we do things differently?’
- And you can agree to the consequences IF your child doesn’t stick to the routine i.e. less screen time, loss of privileges etc. These also, have to upfront upfront CLICK here to read more about ‘how to give consequences’
Awareness question: According to the age of your child, how much screen time do you think is ok for your child?
Quote: Things Take Time: accept that they might need some time to get used to the new screen time agreement.