Reclaim Your Family Time: A 3 Step Method to Controlling Your Childs Screen Time
We hear regularly from parents concerned with the long hours their kids spend in front of screens. As the weather is getting colder, it is not uncommon for parents to feel worried their children aren’t getting outdoors, socialising, reading or creating enough. Conscientious parents feel like they must do something to remedy the situation.
Most often, well-intentioned parents’ first strategy to tackle the screen time dilemma is by restricting usage. “You can have two hours on the computer and that’s it.” Naturally enough, this approach is most often met with groans, resentment and at times conflict. As with all aspects of parenting, there are many “right” ways to go about things and the very best thing to do is try a few strategies and see what works best for your family.
An alternative strategy that works with some families is to avoid restrictions of this kind. Instead, like all the tricky moments that pop up in a day, consider navigating screen time as an opportunity for learning—both on your part and your child’s.
1. Start the Dialogue
Begin a dialogue with your son or daughter that starts with questions. “I notice that you’ve been on your computer a lot lately. Will you show me some of the things you’ve been enjoying the most?” You may be surprised to find your child has been learning to code or is studying a foreign language, or reading about politics (not necessarily common). It may be your child has a favourite game they are getting very good at or they’re learning new dance moves on YouTube. Show that you are interested. Engage with whatever it is your child is doing online.
2. Agree, Together
Once you know what your child is doing online, you’ll have a better sense of determining how much time he actually needs there in order to accomplish specific goals. Come up with what’s a reasonable amount of time together. This is a wonderful way for your child to learn time management—an invaluable skill essential to ensuring his success in the future.
3. Find Alternative Options
Once you and your child have determined what constitutes a reasonable length of time on the computer, discuss how the rest of the day can be better managed. Find out what else your child would like to do. It may be that she has lots of ideas, but you may also be surprised to find your child has no idea what to do if she isn’t on their computer. Here’s your chance to get creative and offer some meaningful suggestions. Maybe some social outings, excursions, cooking adventures or art projects. Think outside the box. Surprise your child. Offer your children something they won’t be able to resist.
One of the beautiful things about the season we are in is the time it allows us to rest, go inward a bit, and explore important skills like time management. Enter into these talks with joy, affirmation, love and positivity—your children are learning such great things.