Screen time is one of the biggest headaches of parenting life these days. I’ve written about this before and I’m quite sure I’ll be writing about it again.
1. As Stuart Dredge says in The Medium Daily Digest, “This isn’t just about setting time limits. Screen time can be something creative and fun that we do together, rather than something my children do alone while I nag them to come out on a walk.”
Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University interviewed 20,000 parents with children between the ages of two and five regarding the online habits of their young children, and said “If anything, our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time.”
“Actively engaging in exploring the digital world together” can involve using devices WITH your children – whether playing online games or using educational software.
But this is hard. It means not always using computer time for your child as time that you as a parent can get other things done.
But perhaps it’s also more realistic than just setting draconian limits on screen time. Our children live in a digital world. They were born into a digital world. That’s why they are sometimes called “digital natives”. And that is why they NEED to learn how to use devices but also learn how to LIMIT THEIR OWN USE OF DEVICES.
This is where parents come in. Using devices WITH your children and then demonstrating when it is time to take a break to eat or to get outside and ride a bike is a way to model good digital/online habits.
What our children really need to learn in the long run is ONLINE SELF REGULATION.
Parents can also have their kids show them their favorite Youtube channels. You don’t have to do this every day – but perhaps once a week each child in your family could get a chance to show you what they like. In my house we do that at the dinner table. You may prefer to do it at another time – perhaps on a weekend when you have more time. But this way you can see what they are watching (or at least SOME of it) and engage with them about it.
2. Screens are not a good idea just before bedtime. Multiple studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of blue light on sleep. Moreover, the content of what kids are watching/doing/playing may be exciting or overstimulating and these feelings in and of themselves can interfere with sleep. This goes for instant messaging and Facetiming too!
3. If your child is getting angry or acting out when you tell them it is time to get off the screen, this is a sign that they need more help from you – not more punishments. This is happening in every home – and there’s a reason. Online activities are so pleasurable, they are hard to stop. And they are especially hard to stop when your child is right in the middle of something.
– Try to talk with them about stopping when they finish a game or a video…even if they have 3 minutes of time left. Talk to them about how much easier it is to stop when you have completed something than when you are right in the middle. Offer to apply the 3 minutes to their next screen time.
– Try giving a 10 minute and a 5 minute warning when they have limited time left to use the screen.
– If this doesn’t work, try sitting with them for the last 5 minutes and turning the game/activity off FOR them at the end. They will hate this. They may throw a tantrum. But the next time they need to stop and you come over to sit with them, they may get off when it’s time!
Thanks to Stuart Dredge whose excellent post in The Medium Daily Digest inspired THIS post!