If you’re like most parents, you are constantly despairing about how much time your kids spend with their noses glued to a screen, whether that’s their smartphone, a tablet, laptop, TV or another gadget. The number of hours children spend looking at screens is rising and doesn’t look likely to decrease any time soon.
As a result, it’s important to think about ways you can manage how screen time is handled in your household. You don’t need to cut out your child’s access to screens completely — and realistically, you can’t as kids need to use computers for homework and cellphones for safety when they’re out and about. However, you can definitely take steps to ensure screens aren’t taking over their lives totally. Read on for some tips to follow today.
Have Clear Goals
First up, make sure you have clear goals when it comes to how you want things to change in your household. It’s not about what you’ve heard other parents talk about or what other kids are allowed to do; work out what screen time rules you feel comfortable putting in place for your children.
In addition, don’t forget that you need to know how you will tell if certain goals are achieved. That is, what measurements will you put in place for the new behaviors you want to see in your children? There will likely be things you want and things you don’t want to see after a certain amount of time. Set measurable, specific goals, and communicate these to your children if they’re old enough, so they know what’s expected of them.
Take Into Consideration the Various Screens Your Child has Access to
When coming up with strategies around screen time, don’t forget to take into consideration all the different types of screens your child has access to. When you were young, it was likely only TV screens that you spent time in front of, but today’s youth often use a wide variety of screen tech, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, e-readers, video games and so on.
To create appropriate screen time rules, you will want to add up all the potential screen time your child could have. Then you may decide to put a total daily or weekly limit in place for all screens or cut out certain screen on some days or at particular times. You may also choose to be more flexible about when and how your children use screens when it’s for educational, productive activities such as homework, project research or extracurricular learning.
Enforce the Rules
Once you’ve worked out a plan when it comes to screen time, make sure you enforce the rules you put in place; otherwise, there isn’t much point in the process. For example, you might decide that your child won’t be allowed to watch TV on a weekday until after dinner and after they’ve completed their homework and certain chores. Stay consistent, and don’t allow them to watch TV one afternoon just because they beg and plead or because you don’t want to have a fight with them.
If you can’t always be around to supervise your child’s screen time, and if you think they might struggle to do what you’ve asked, you may need to utilize some online parental controls to keep kids away from screens. Once these are in place, you won’t have to worry so much about your child accessing the content you don’t want them to when you’re not at home.
Model Positive Screen Behavior
Of course, it’s also important to “walk the walk” and model the positive behavior you’d like your children to display. After all, kids are always looking to their parents to see how to do things, and if they notice that you set strict rules for them but are always on your phone or laptop, particularly during times when they’re forbidden from using a screen (such as during dinner), you’ll be sending mixed messages.
Help your children be more amenable to following the screen time rules you put in place by managing your own consumption. Show them you are making the choice to live differently, and they’ll be significantly more receptive to and understanding of the new rules.