Are you concerned about your child and their screen time? Like me, I’m sure that you answered a resounding YES! With huge advancements in technology, this is now one of the biggest issues parents face today. Technology entered my home stealthily, school encouraged their use for educational purposes. It has become harder and harder to set appropriate time limits in our house. In addition to this, games and apps can pose challenges for kids safety, mental health and self esteem.
I highly recommend reading ‘Teen Brain’ by David Gillespie which gives an insight into teenagers developing brains. David Gillespie explains why screen time can be problematic at this sensitive stage of their lives.
How can you keep on top of screen time?
There are products that you can buy that help to control screen time at home, such as Family Zone and Circle with Disney. Kids can be savvy enough to work out ways around these products. If circumvented, they are then useless.
An excellent article to read is an interview with paediatrician Michael Rich, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health and the Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders, which focuses on issues associated with digital technology. He suggests that instead of setting a fixed screen time, parents should discuss with their child all of the things that need to be done in a day (sleep, exercise, homework etc) and work back from there to set an agreement. He believes that setting a time limit creates arguments, as the child will want more and makes screen time something they can’t get enough of. This advice is mirrored in the eSafety Commissioner’s guide to time online.
Discuss online safety with your kids
The nature of teenagers brains means that they can be impulsive and not think through the repercussions of their actions. I always ask the questions below to make my kids aware of how their safety can be compromised. Unfortunately, child grooming does happen and preventing personal information being given out online can help keep children safe.
Sharing explicit images
Teenagers can be impulsive as their brains are still learning to think about the consequences of their actions. How do we sufficiently prepare them for their use of Instagram and Snapchat; where images are shared instantaneously, often for attention, likes or a desire to be liked?
Most importantly, talk to your kids about what they shouldn’t post and why. Asking for, accessing, possessing, creating or sharing explicit images of a person under 18 in Australia is a criminal offence. This could result in a criminal record and potential registration as a sex offender. There are many implications which may affect their chosen future career or freedom of movement. The consequences of posting explicit images also include dealing with irrevocable damage to their reputation and friendships.
Tips for screen time for the stressed out parent
Don’t fall for “I’m doing my homework” while switching screens every two minutes
This is the easiest way for kids to get away with their devices for long periods. Set a time, perhaps dinner time, when devices will need to be put away and charged for tomorrow. Homework will need to be completed by then, unless specifically negotiated. Kids need time to unwind, chat, play and read. Keep reinforcing the message to your kids that there are times to have fun and time to wind down.
iPhones, iPads and laptops have parental settings that you can set limits and activate a PIN
You can set time limits, sleep time, apps able to be used during different times and the ability to purchase apps from Itunes! Find out here how to set up parental controls for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Find out here how to set up parental controls on Mac.
Keep a healthy balance
Get the kids in the great outdoors, go for a swim or a bike ride. Doing these things automatically cuts down on screen time and teaches kids to have fun in other ways.
If all else fails, shut down the Internet! 😱
I have an Inchargebox! Once the kids have played, I lock them up in this box which also charges them! As it is under lock and key, I know where they are at all times. When they need to come out again, they are fully charged.
When I’ve had enough of devices altogether, I will pull the pin and switch off the internet. Boom! Discover life pre google!!! I have also heard of friends changing the internet password regularly and giving it to their kids after they have completed chores or homework.
Don’t feel overwhelmed, so many parents are experiencing difficulties managing screen time. It is possible to change their behaviour, you may get an initial backlash but eventually it will settle down and the whole family will be happier for it.