by Lisa Reichelt, M.Ed. Parent Coach
Are you concerned about your child’s screen time? Are Distance Learning and Lock Downs causing you to allow increased screen time just to make it through each day? You are not alone. The pandemic has certainly increased screen time for all children. Much of the increase is due to school work, but screen use for entertainment and communication with friends and family has skyrocketed as well. Conscientious parents need to be aware and proactive so that screen time doesn’t negatively affect their children. You are justified in being concerned about your child’s screen time.
At Champion Your Parenting we utilize a process called “Parenting With Purpose” to boost your parenting skills. The process has 5 easy steps: Seek Knowledge, Set Goals, Reflect, Make Adjustments, and Accept Guidance. Parenting With Purpose gives you a framework for logical thinking around emotional topics. Limiting screen time elicits strong emotional responses especially when parents try to set strict boundaries for their children. Let’s apply Parenting With Purpose to the topic of Screen Time.
Screen time has both benefits and detriments. It would be a good exercise for your family to list the pros and cons of screen time. Communication, ease of access to information and entertainment are benefits. The addictive quality of games, social media and questionable internet content are detriments. What are the pros and cons of screen time for your family?
Another thing to seek knowledge about is ways to monitor screen time. There are many apps and software products to help families put guards on their child’s use of the internet, apps and cell phones. Do you have a filter for your children’s use at home? If not, check out the variety of products online.
Many parents also question when to get their child a cell phone and which phone is best for a young user. Smart phones can tempt young children to explore topics beyond their years. Pre-teens have access to unhealthy and addictive sites with smartphones. There are options for a family that wants a phone for communication and some basic entertainment apps. A good article for starting your research is on the website Fatherly. You decide at what age your child is ready for the responsibility of a smart phone.
Now that you have gathered some facts about screen time use you are ready to set goals. What does your family use screen time for? As a family, discuss this topic. It would be great to hear what your children have to add to the discussion.
Once you have recognized what you use screen time for in your family, you should be able to set some parameters on its’ use. When you include the children in the discussion, they will take more ownership in the goal setting. If you think your family is using screens too much, then you, as a family should come up with alternative activities for the time you spend on screens.
Typically, entertainment and social media are the areas of overuse. As a family, set goals for reducing the use of screens. Be prepared to participate in limiting your use of screen time as well. Modeling your own discipline of control over your pastimes is very effective and important to good parenting.
Your family has agreed to some goals to adjust the use of screens in your home. Set up a timeline for reflecting on how this adjustment is working. Maybe you chose a week or a month as your timeframe for reflecting on how the change has worked or not worked. When you and your children know that there is a date when things will be reevaluated, you will all feel more comfortable with the process.
So, how do you reflect? Here’s some suggestions: Look back at your knowledge and goals. Do the practices that the family has been using fit with the goals you set? Does the knowledge that you gathered still apply to the use of screen time in your family? Is the family’s daily life improved? Do more changes need to be made?
You should be prepared to adjust. It is fantastic when parents can model for their children that they are willing to change their minds and say things might not have worked out correctly. Don’t be afraid to say “I was wrong.” Your children will be impressed. Perhaps you went too extreme and need to adjust your screen time limits to allow for more freedom. You may have not put enough limits on screen time and now the adjustment can be made to increase the limits. Whichever situation you find yourself in, include your children in the conversation and goal setting. Be sure to remember that you are the parent and the final decision should be yours.
Guidance for parents can come from many sources. Reading books, sharing concerns with friends and family or connecting with a parent coach. Supporting one another in parenting is essential to healthy families.
Seek friends and family to support your goals in the area of screen use. Many parents are concerned about screen use and welcome the chance to collaborate with other families. Cultivate relationships with other families so that you can experience the strength of community. Be open and honest with friends about your concerns. Friendships grow when we share our struggles as well as our joys.
Who knows, if your family’s concerned about your child’s screen time, your actions may be an inspiration to other families to take a more critical look at their use of screens and how it effects their family life.
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