Managing Screen Time During The Pandemic
I have been hearing a lot from clients and my friends, that they are fining themselves in a tough place when it comes to their kids screen time. It seems that everyone's kids are increasing their time in front of screens. School is now being conducted virtually causing us all to have a bit more screen time than we would like. If your house is anything like mine, the TV is a great way to buy you some time to get through your meeting without interruptions. We have all had to make adjustments but how do we balance the use of technology in our lives in a way that doesn't negatively impact our child's development.
Like so many other parents out there, I have had to make a major shift in the consumption of screen time in our home. It has been a challenge because I had pretty strict limits around it before this pandemic. I am now facing the challenge of how to adjust with our current circumstances and still having some limits around technology. Here are a few things I realized about making this adjustment:
1) Take into consideration your child. Their age and temperament may play a role in how much you even need to limit screen time. I have one child who can watch TV all day if you let her. Every time I turn around she tried to turn the TV back on. My other child enjoys reading and crafting so she will naturally watch TV in moderation and then move onto something else. Teenagers may need more access to screen time (phones, computer, etc) just to connect with friends. Think about your child and their needs.
2) Set limits about what must be done before your child can have screen time. In our home we have a rule that chores, school work, etc need to be done before screen time. The next thing we have to do is move our bodies (everyday). That means that they have to go outside and play or engage in some physical activity before they watch TV or play on the computer.
3) Set limits around use of screen time: Get a clear idea about the amount of screen time you are OK with them having a day. You may even categorize the types of screen time differently. For example in my house I do not lump watching TV and a Zoom meeting with friends in the same category (we do however limit the Zooms to one a day and no more than 1 hour). So my kids get an hour of screen time a day which does not include connecting with friends over the computer. It is also helpful to use those parental controls to set the timers on devices and help kids track their time spent on them.
4) Discuss the limits and rules around screen time with your kids and let them make choices. We have a lot of discussions in our house and include the kids in any changes we want to make or rules we plan to enforce. We explain our rational and listen to their feedback (which may or may not lead to any changes in our decision). We also allow the kids to make some choices on their screen time. Knowing that they have one hour, they can choose how and when to use it. This allows them to practice managing their own screen time and can decrease the power struggle.
5) Identify any extra challenges and plan for them. Some kids struggle to turn off technology once they start. If this is the case think about ways to manage this. You may need timers to help them track time, set parental controls, turn off the autostart (that feature that makes it so easy to binge watch on Netflix), or have them transition from technology to outdoor time. I have met many kids that struggle disconnecting from technology and often moving their bodies and running around outside, helps them transition.
Here is the part where I give you full disclosure. There are days when my kids get more, sometimes way more screen time than we have agreed to. There are days when we are working and we need to just get through the day. Guess what?! It's OK you can always get back on track. Give yourself a break and give your kids a break. We are all figuring this out together.
Claudia Glassman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist, and Parent Coach at Mighty Oak Parenting.