I’ve just created a screen “time-out” in our house. Not because anyone did anything bad. Not because anyone needs a consequence. And not because I’m trying to teach a lesson. O.k. I AM trying to teach a lesson, but they are lessons parents have tried to teach their kids for centuries…how to be independent and get yourselves ready for school, how to have a real conversation, how to cope with stress, how to finish a task, and how to wait for what you want.
Screens have taken over. I see it in my own children and in the lives of the children I work with. And parents are stressed. They know it intuitively but don’t know what to do or feel powerless to set limits and take back their children. While this may sound slightly melodramatic more and more research is showing the negative impact of screens on developing brains. And more and more research is showing a connection between too much screen time and negative behaviors. And more and more research is showing we need to be cautious and careful and mindful in how we introduce and use screens with our children and in our family lives. And more and more parents are struggling with the issue of how to set limits on screen time.
So HOW do we actually do this?! Easier said than done. Yes. It will be hard. But doing it slowly, in small ways at first can make it manageable. Be realistic. Be consistent and as Nike so beautifully created a motto for life, “Just DO IT.” And set yourself up for success.
- Create a screen time-IN…pick a time of day that happens consistently during the week and make that the designated screen time. Pick a time that is easy for YOU to stick to, a time that is helpful for YOU as the parent to support, and one that BOTH parents agree to. Once you know when YOU want that time to be (not your child) ANNOUNCE it! Make it a consistent and reliable, and thus predictable time for your child. Predictability helps the nervous system relax and sticking to a set time when your child knows the screen time is coming, helps decrease the number of requests (eventually)
- Create a screen time – OUT…by selecting zones of the house that will be screen-free! Think bathroom, kitchen/dining room table during meals, and bedrooms (unless their workspace for homework is in there, in which case screens stay ON THE DESK…even at bedtime. This one can get tricky for parenting pre-teens and teens, so we will add a “screen-free” time of day in the next post, that might help. By having screen-free zones, you now have places to connect with your child and have them connect with themselves, that are built into daily activities. Consider the times of day that you are with your child the most and make those environments “screen-free zones”.
- Have your parenting mantra’s ready. Some phrases to use when faced with protest and complaint from your children might be: “I like seeing your beautiful face and I can’t see you when you’re face is in front of that screen.” From Love and Logic, “I love you too much to let screens take you away.” “I have fun with you not your screen.” “First (dinner), then screens.” And repeat these mantra’s over and over. Your kids might get tired of hearing them and actually get frustrated by hearing them (I speak from experience here), but they will learn through hearing them, that you are holding to your limit and that you really do care.
To close for now, here is a link to some current information about media use: healthychildren.org
Please let me know what works and what doesn’t work in your home, with your children. Let’s brainstorm! Our children are too important.