Here are six quick tips to help you and your children get on the same page about screen time.
- Establish Some Simple Ground Rules
Start by setting up some simple rules for everyone to follow. These can include no phones during meal time, no screens a half hour before bedtime, or no computer time until after homework is complete. These basic rules should reflect your family’s values and correspond with any established routines. Utilize your family’s strength of teamwork by working together to establish these rules. Doing so creates a sense of ownership and accountability in the process
- Choose Quality Over Quantity
Rather than set a specific number of hours your children are allowed to be online, try starting a conversation about what they love and why they love it. Not only will this help you get to know your child better, but it can encourage their strengths of curiosity and love of learning by letting them spend time with something they really enjoy. If your child likes Harry Potter, for example, set them up on Pottermore or find some games related to the books. This way they are engaging with something they enjoy rather than spending mindless time scrolling through Netflix or YouTube.
- Find Appropriate Time To Spend Online
Be intentional and mindful in setting aside time for your kids to be online. Sit down together as a family to develop, discuss, and create these rules. Discuss with them your daily schedules and routines and make sure screen time isn’t interfering with homework, family time, or extracurriculars. Remind them that screen time right before bed may interrupt their sleep. Reinforce the importance of completing their homework before jumping into a game of Fortnite. This will help them be more responsible about the time they choose to be online and develop their strength of self-regulation.
- Understand What Is and Is Not Appropriate
Discussions about social media and screen time provide a great opportunity to reinforce your family’s values and to build on their strengths of judgment and social intelligence. While the internet is an awesome repository of all of the world’s collected knowledge and cat pics, it is also home to some pretty dark stuff. Empower your child to have fun and discover, but make sure they are equipped with the knowledge to avoid things like cyberbullying online predators, or malicious software. Utilize tools such as Google Safe Search Kids, a custom search engine that uses Google’s SafeSearch features along with additional filtering to block potentially harmful material. Establishing a relationship built on trust will let your child feel safe coming to you with any concerns that they have about inappropriate things they may see or encounter on the internet.
- Model Appropriate Screen Time Yourself
Kids are observers of their world. Remember that. When you are having a conversation with your child make sure you are present and fully engaged. Put your phone on silent and put in on a table or desk. Being intentional about this will encourage your daughter or son to do the same. Make sure you comply with the ground rules you established. No phones at dinner or before bedtime. If your kids (or you) need a little help in this department check out the app Moment. It helps you track how much time you spend on your iPhone or iPad. You can set limits and even connect to and monitor your entire family’s usage. It can be eye-opening to see just how much time is being spent online. And most importantly, make sure to never text while driving!
- Have Some Analogue Fun
The internet has had a profound impact on our lives. It has made many things easier, more convenient, and even more fun. It allows us to connect and stay connected to friends, family, and the world around us. But, don’t forget the time before the iPhone, before AOL, or before that first PDA or dial-up connection. Approach some non-digital activities with zest. Read paperback books together. Take a walk, hike, or bike ride. Dust off the old board games and have a family game night. Check out our Parenting Resources page for more fun things to do. Value balance in your life between the internet and IRL.