There is no escaping smartphones, tablets, computers and digital media, even in childhood. Establishing healthy screen time limits has become an unavoidable part of being a parent.
Parents are in a particularly rough spot as they continuously hear about the negative impact too much screen time can have on their kids, but rarely get to what should they be doing and how.
“Put your phone down!”
“But why? Just give me another minute.”
End arguments like these by avoiding these seven common mistakes when setting screen time limits for your kids.
Even though there is still debate on how screens impact our kids overall, there is no denying how different their developmental path can be when they are overexposed to screens. Obesity, school performance, neurodevelopment, emotional and social well-being can all be affected.
Setting boundaries and guiding your kids toward healthy and productive habits is an essential part of parenting. Things are no different in the digital world and when it comes to device usage. It is up to you to set and practice firm boundaries when it comes to screen time.
Consistency is the key to building habits and solid digital boundaries. If you don’t have a consistent screen time plan for your kids, then every time you ask them to put their phone or tablet down, you are re-establishing a boundary almost from scratch. This opens up space for questions like “But I was on my phone yesterday, and you didn’t mind.”
By practicing a reliable and consistent screentime schedule, you are helping your kid develop self-control, sense of reliability and trust. It is understandable that you as a parent sometimes might find it easier to just “let the kids play” and grab a moment for yourself after a long day at work, but make situations like these a rare exception.
At the opposite end of no screen time limits, or inconsistent screen time limits are too strict and too rigid screen time rules. Firm rules, consistency, and monitoring are very important. However, there also needs to be a space for building trust with your children.
Being mindful of online safety and the content your children consume is not only reasonable but essential. But, pushing too far into your kid’s privacy can be counter-effective. Not only could the child feel like you don’t trust them at all, but strict rules without the space to talk about them can create a revolt, especially for teenagers.
If you and your partner spend the entire evening on your devices and expect your child to stick to their screen time rules, you’ll eventually get an angry response like “But you are doing it the entire time, why can’t I?”
Besides, too much screen time is not healthy for you either. After a day at work, do you need to spend more time apart from what is happening right now around you?
By taking the time to enjoy off-screen activities with your child you are giving them a positive example and helping them enjoy other things in life. Parents are primary role models for younger children, so take the opportunity to instil healthy habits early.
You come home tired from work, complete chores and sit down to catch a few moments for yourself. It is perfectly understandable why you are not in the mood for another argument about smartphones and tablets. But there is one thing worth keeping in mind: each time you concede, you’re opening up space for the next debate.
The key to avoiding this mistake is in relying on tools to help you limit screen time. During school, limiting the screentime until homework is done or at the bedtime to ensure your children are getting enough sleep can be straightforward. By using screen time app, you can avoid arguments altogether, as you define the screen time once and the screentime schedule is consistent.
If you limit screen time and don’t offer an exciting alternative for kids to do, they’ll get bored and start looking for ways to circumvent your limits. Take the opportunity of non-digital time to nurture creative play, physical activity, reading and spend quality family time overall.
The games you enjoyed as a child can be engaging in a modern day, too. You can spend a day outside, in a park or on a picnic. Books, in their old, regular format still offer the same window to the imagination as they always did.
If your kid already has their smartphone with a data plan and is uses it freely at all times, you have a far bigger task at hand when setting up screen time boundaries. Keeping up with current screen time recommendations and talking with your child are the initial elements that will get you on the right track.
Next, you can get additional help by using screen time apps such as Sowi Screen Time Balance. Try Sowi for free for 14 days and help your kids develop positive habits.
Nikolina is a psychologist (BSc) and a school counsellor. She focuses on writing about childhood development and other mental health topics in an easy-to-understand and fact-based manner. Nikolina’s writing about mental health matters relies on acceptance and mindfulness-based psychotherapy approaches.
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