It’s half term and a chance for everyone to have a break from the school routine. But for many parents, this comes with concerns and frustrations over how much time their children will spend on screens. And, dare we say it, how easy it is to use the television, ipad or phone as a babysitter.
So, how much screen time is acceptable or how do you control your children’s technology use?
Think about how you taught your children about safety in other areas of their lives. The hot water tap? The swimming pool? The busy road? Did you just ‘ban’ them from using it – or did you teach them why it was dangerous and how to be safe?
In this same way you can’t simply try to control what they do with technology. You have to teach them responsibility and safety so that they own their own behaviour. We do this through connecting with them, keeping communication lines open and being the parent (not the friend).
Think about how you feel when someone just says ‘no’ to you with no real reason. It just makes you angry and want it even more. If you just blanket rules, your children will fight back to keep control of this part of their lives. It may work in the short term to get them off the device but won’t bring the desired long term result of responsibility and self-control.
Here are some tips:-
- Use age-appropriate limits and boundaries that are practical and achievable. You must feel able and comfortable to manage them. Write them down. In an older child a contract is a great idea. (Use questions: What can they play, where, when, how long, with who?)
- Keep within the law. Don’t let under-age children play age restricted games or sign up to social platforms underage. Follow the rule of law. And no - all their friends don’t play them!
- Remember your goal is to achieve responsibility and self-control in your child. Include them in the discussion if possible (over 8’s); don’t dictate to them. eg: “We have maths revision to do today. How do you want to plan your day to get this done – before or after some play time?”
- A trick here is to teach delayed gratification. Teach your child patience and reward for that patience. Everything doesn’t have to be now. If they can learn to wait and receive the reward (ie screen time) later, they will learn a lot.
- Follow through. Don’t renegade on agreed deadlines or rewards. Don’t forget or delay again.
- Be positive. When they do manage their screen time and behaviour according to your agreed plan – reward them with positive feedback, acknowledgement and affirmation.
And remember – lead by example. Practise what you preach.
Above all – they will COPY YOU – not listen to you!