6 Strategies To Help Your Child Develop A Healthier Relationship With Screens
Electronic devices and screen time are a common aspect of daily life. As with most things, screen time in moderation can be beneficial. Since screens are likely going to continue to be a significant part of our kids’ lives, we as parents need to perfect our strategies to help combat the detrimental parts of having such constant exposure. To help create those strategies, here are six tips that you can use to help your children develop a healthier relationship with screens.
1. Set Daily Limits
Yvonne Bennett, a journalist at Brit Student says, “Establish a clear daily limit and make sure that you are consistent and stick to it.” It’s hard to find the balance of how much time your kids should spend on screens, and it can oftentimes be even harder to stay consistent with such rules. But these kinds of restrictions are crucial to helping our kids learn how to engage with the world around them in a meaningful and healthy way. Being absorbed in screens only restricts that growth and makes it harder in the future.
Help your kids transition from being on screens to getting off. Giving kids a clear time limit, and prior warnings (about 5-10 minutes before it’s time to get off) will help that transition go a little easier and will hopefully minimize any tantrums that might occur. Getting your kids their own individual devices might help to reduce fighting between siblings in the short-term, but having them take turns instead can help with moderating the time they spend on screens as well. Set a timer for how long each kid has, and make sure they stick to that to create a fair and controlled screen time experience. Having your kids take turns will also help them practice the basic principles of sharing with others.
Bennett also suggests, “Another way to track children’s screen time is to use an app. Many of the apps available also allow parents to set daily limits, meaning that once your child has reached it, the device turns off or no longer provides internet access.” This will help to further solidify that screen time is limited, and will help kids to branch out and find other means of entertaining themselves, which is very healthy for their growing imaginations.
2. Create No-Screen Zones
Having multiple places within your home that are strictly no-screen zones is not only beneficial, but it is also crucial for kids to learn how to balance their activities and relationships. Designate specific areas or zones in your home to be no-screen areas. For example, this could be bedrooms or the dinner table. You could also set up a desktop computer for the kids to take turns using in a communal living space where the screen time can be monitored more easily. This will also come in handy during schoolwork hours since you will be able to ensure that they don’t drift into playing games online.
Along with no-screen zones, create no-screen times such as during meal times or at bedtime. You might even plan to have one day out of the week with no-screens, which will continue to help kids learn how to engage their imagination and find alternative ways of entertaining themselves. Overall, it’s important to be consistent with these rules and to follow them yourself.
3. Watch Things Together
Not only is it important to share fun activities with your kids, but parents who are aware of what content their children are consuming online are in a better position to provide kids with important and more specific information about online safety. Engaging with your kids while they’re using the electronic devices also provides an opportunity to connect and find those common interests.
“Instead of just letting your child watch a video or program alone, sit and watch it with them. If you have young children, watch high-quality shows with them and be actively involved, reinforcing educational content and sharing the experience together. You even extend these interests into non-screen time, through imaginative play or storytelling,” says Paul Marson, an educator at Origin Writings.
Watching stuff together can also reinforce specified screen times. Make it exciting to watch together, and show that you’re eager to see what happens next, so when you need to step away to accomplish other tasks, the kids know that you’ll continue watching later, and they can look forward to it. This also helps them practice patience.
4. Discuss What Content Your Kids Are Consuming
It’s important to talk to kids of all ages about online safety and the dangers they might come across. Even with younger kids, it pays to be mindful of what they’re watching or listening to, including adverts or auto play videos. To avoid inappropriate content, it’s important to ensure that you have active parental controls or filters installed on all the devices your kids use.
Along with filtering controls, have open conversations with your kids about the content they’re watching, what to do if they come across inappropriate content, or if someone is making them feel uncomfortable online. Similarly, many children also experience bullying on social media platforms, so encourage your kids to regularly talk to you about their online life as well. Set yourself up as approachable and understanding of their interests, and your kids will feel more willing to open up and come to you when they do come across these kinds of content.
5. Video Calls
Video calls are a great example of how screens can be used to connect with people and strengthen bonds. However, it’s also important that we teach our kids about what is and isn’t appropriate to share on a video. Talk to your kids and encourage them to consider their behaviour and the potential consequences of sharing inappropriate or explicit images or content when talking to their friends or family online.
Having these discussions will also let them know what kinds of things to look out for if someone tries to show them inappropriate images or discuss with them inappropriate topics. Make sure to have that open communication with them where they can come to you if they come across something inappropriate or someone behaving this way.
6. Be A Good Example
Children learn so much from watching what the adults around them do, especially their parents. If we want our kids to develop a healthy relationship with their screen use, then we have to start by evaluating our own screen use. Lead by example and model healthy habits when it comes to screens.
- Create and maintain no-screen zones in your home
- Limit your own screen time
- Avoid using your phone or tablet during family time or dinner time
- Plan quality family time outside the house
- Prioritize one-on-one time with your kids
Kids definitely see when effort is made to connect with them and have meaningful conversations. Screens really are one of the most major distractions from creating those crucial bonds, both in kids and parents alike. Make your kids feel important by setting that example of prioritizing relationships over distractions.
In order to help children develop a healthy relationship to screens, reassess your own behaviour and begin by being a positive role model. Have ongoing, open conversations about your kids’ use of and interaction with screens and ways to stay safe. By creating an open atmosphere in which you clearly and consistently share your logic for screen usage and behaviours, the more likely your child will be to respect these and be willing to follow them.
For more ideas on how to approach these discussions and build important guidelines with your kids, check out our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Discussions for the Digital Age.
George J. Newton is an experienced business development manager at Write my research paper and PhD Kingdom. He also regularly writes for Cheap coursework. George has been married for ten years and enjoys spending his spare time playing video games with his family.