Updated: Feb 16
Being a parent was hard enough in the 1920's when the only technology was the radio. The 20's also blessed us with sliced bread and antibiotics, but that's not related, is it? Now, we have smart phones, tablets, game systems, computers, laptops....and the list probably goes on. In less than 30 years, life has changed immensely thanks to technology. Parents and guardians are suddenly forced to face a new issue--children spending too much time on devices. Here's some tips to potentially make it all easier.
1. Give children choices
Limiting screen time does not have to be a fight. Let children help set their own boundaries. Children are more likely to actively follow rules that they’ve had a hand in making—they value their autonomy.
2. Different rules for different ages
This is geared to families with multiple children. To children, fairness is more about being treated equitably rather than identically (Butler et al., 2005). An older child may require more screen time than a younger child. Ensure all the children understand the “why” and see the fairness in it.
3. Make sure rules make sense
Just like adults, children are much happier to follow rules with a logical basis.
4. There is nothing wrong with a little trial and error
Nations have to change and create new laws all the time, and they’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands of years of practice. Don’t feel bad if something isn’t working for your family; Instead, look for a new solution. What worked? What didn’t work?
5. Boundaries and rules are not “one size fits all”
What works for your friend or colleague’s family may not work for yours. Every family is complex with differing needs. Working together, your family will find out what is the best way to go about dealing with digital devices.
6. Talk about social media Dos and Don'ts
Social media is almost unavoidable in the digital age we live in. It’s important to discuss safety and other issues related to social media usage. Remind children and teens that the people they are interacting with online are people too, and their words can hurt them. Bullying is bullying, whether it is through a screen, or in person. Discuss the implications of personal information being shared on social media, and how strangers might have access to it. Make sure children are aware that the things they post online may never disappear.
7. No phone before bed time
According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-age children require 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Countless studies support links between adequate sleep and positive behavior and academic achievement. A digital curfew about an hour before bedtime will improve your child’s ability to fall asleep, as well as their quality of sleep. Genius App Manager is a great parental control app that can help set digital curfews.
8. Limit television, but encourage reading
You are only as intelligent as how you spend your time. This does not mean that children and teens shouldn’t be allowed to watch TV; It is just advisable for TV time, like any other screen, to be limited. Encourage reading over television-watching in many instances. A love of reading improves empathy, vocabulary, and writing skills.
9. Be a good role model
Parents are not always aware of how important the concept of “fairness” is to children (Butler et al., 2015). Try to follow the screen time rules you set for your children. If you don’t allow phones at the dinner table, don’t have yours out. Invite your children on walks to encourage an active lifestyle and earn screen time through the Genius App Manager .
10. Be consistent
If you have a spouse, partner, or other people helping you raise your children, it is most effective to all be on the same page. Butler et al., 2005, found that “decisions might be ‘agreed’ by both parents but not all decisions will be taken or carried into effect by both parents equally.”
References and further readings:
Butler, I., Scanlan, L., Robinson, M., National Children’s Bureau, & Joseph Rowntree Foundation. (2005). Children and Decision Making. London: National Children’s Bureau.
Children and Sleep. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep/page/0/2