Communication/ explaining screen time to your kids
First things first, just like any other relationship, communication is the most vital part. Yes, that goes for mummies and daddies and their two -year old. Here are 7 healthy screen time habits for kids.
Age plays a vital role when speaking to your children about screen time. You know how to best discuss issues with them; do what works best for you. Anything from a “big chat” at the dining- room table to a small talk before taking away the iPad is fine. It is more about what will work best for you are your family. But the discussion is key. If your child is old enough, you can explain the why and the how and all the rules that you have established. If they are younger, then you will want to give choices and talk about specific places and times when screens will be an option, like on long road trips.
Regardless of what rules you set and how the conversation starts or ends, the main goal is to ensure this is a positive experience, they didn’t do anything wrong and should not feel like they are in trouble. Positive parenting! After all, we want our kids to be the best version of themselves, not feel like they did something wrong.
Setting healthy boundaries and limits
While having “the talk” with your children, be clear on limits and boundaries. If you have a partner or co-parent, be sure you are on the same page. Nothing is more confusing to a child than parents taking different approaches. Remember this is a strategy, not a punishment. Key points for screen time boundaries are simply, what, when, where and for how long. Tools like bark.us can help track and manage these boundaries with your children.
Using screen time for the good
Think about what your child is watching or doing. Learning is different than gaming. Peppa Pig is different than Sesame Street. Our screens can be places of learning, or mindless distractions, so it’s important to set boundaries for the good. Help your child develop a positive relationship with their screens so that they are using them to better themselves. And, of course, have some fun!
Prioritizing family time over screen time
Now that we are setting defined screen time, we should do the same with family time. Focus on the family at the table, enjoy time with each other, leave the screens in the other room. Same thing with story time, game time and play time. Focus on each other by giving your devices a rest. And yes, this goes for background screens like computer monitors and TVs.
This also goes for older kids, adult children, you and anyone else in the house or at the dinner table. Kids love to model what they see. If they see you on the phone, then they want to be on the phone. If they see you watching TV, then they want to watch with you. They just love you so much that they want to be just like you! The best way to help children develop healthy relationships is to model healthy relationships.
Public use of screen time
As a father of two, I feel the temptation to give my two year old an iPad at the table when we go out for brunch or dinner all too well. But, we must fight that temptation for the betterment of our children and our relationship with them. Bring coloring books, games and other toys (ideally soft toys) along for the trip. Interact with your kids just like you are at home.
Should you find your elf traveling or in a public space with no other option than to break out the screen (no one wants to sit behind a two year old screening on an airplane for two to three hours) please be considerate of those around you. Use child headphones and keep the volume down. Do your best to make the screen time interactive with learning games. And if possible, play a game on the screen with your children. There are many board games, such as Monopoly, that you can play with others on the same device or across a network.
Identifying the negative signs from screen use
It is always difficult to find just the right balance in any relationship. Screen time for kids can be difficult as well. How do you know if they have too much time or if you can allow some additional time? Each age is different and has different recommendations from the World Health Organization. In general, there are several indicators if children are watching too much TV. Watch for the following to see if adjustments are needed:
Increase in behavioral issues
Get outside/ IRL activities in COVID-19
Finally, the best way to extinguish an unwanted behavior is to replace it with a new healthier wanted behavior. Spending time outdoors is the easiest way to develop a healthier relationship with your screen. Be active and find fun family outings to help your children be excited by interacting with others rather than a screen. While this may seem impossible amidst a pandemic, it is still very much possible. There are many parks and hiking trails out there. Just be sure to wear a mask when appropriate and keep some distance from other families. A little planning and intentionality can go a long way!