Parents everywhere are confused about how much screen time is too much. Technology is a necessary part of life at school and home, thus going completely without electronics is not realistic. But overuse is creating layers of problems for our children and teens, and parents are struggling to find balance. By implementing a few basic strategies, your family can change from out of control to just right.
First, determine what a healthy use of free time looks like. Technology is a required part of many school assignments. Outside of school, however, overuse is rampant. Children should have free time to play each day “live in person” with other children. Physical activity and non-electronic hobbies need to be incorporated into free time. Also, all children benefit from having a few daily chores. Teens need the same, but should incorporate volunteer or paying part-time jobs, too. These activities create balance, resilience, social skills, a healthy work ethic and a sense of community. Electronic use can be added after these factors are in place.
Next, house rules need to be clear, in writing, and enforced. While rules can be different for each age and stage, some common ones are helpful in all homes. Best practices include: 1) No electronics at mealtime (yes – Mom and Dad, too!) 2) A standard time to turn in all electronics each evening. 3) Consider whether to allow video games on school nights. 4) Limit electronic usage on the weekend. 5) Traditional alarm clocks should replace cell phone alarms in all bedrooms. 6) Parents are encouraged to learn how to turn smart phones into dumb phones, as needed, by restricting internet access and games through their service provider.
Finally, have open conversations with your children and teens about your expectations. When violations occur, consequences need to be swift and consistent. The younger the child, the easier it is to implement these strategies, but it’s never too late to start. If you need assistance turning things around, consult a professional. Remember, you are the parent, and you have been given the responsibility to teach and model healthy living. Children and teens do not have your insight and wisdom. YOU’VE GOT THIS! THIS!