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Much like every other part of parenting, managing kids and screen time is a daily endeavor. Adaptability is key and accepting that what works today very well won’t work tomorrow. Not to mention individualizing to what is best for each of your children.
I’m not going to get into specifics about how we manage actual hours in our house (there are a multitude of ways and I’ve collected some on Pinterest) but I do want to touch on some things that have worked well for our family. I’ll also be sharing some ideas that were shared by a pediatrician and psychologist who presented at a seminar I recently attended related to this topic.
For the Kids:
Make a Plan– Currently my children are about 9.5, 8 and 2 so there is a wide range of screen time concerns that need addressing. The best way to start, especially for the older kids who have more autonomy, is to develop a plan. The doctors at the seminar recommended this Media Plan from the American Academy of Pediatrics. We finally implemented a written plan earlier this year but haven’t transferred it over to this format yet. When you are hurried it really is a great tool to point to when having trouble remembering the plan that was agreed upon!
Use Some Tools– In addition to our written plan we purchased a Disney Circle at the end of last year. This tool works in conjunction with your wifi and you can use it to set all kinds of time limits, monitor history and set age restrictions on content. Also when other people join your wifi network, like friends or babysitters, their devices will also have the same level of filtering. I have heard that older children WILL find ways to work around it, but for the stage we are at it works really well.
Ongoing Discussion– This leads right into what the doctors stressed the most which was having ongoing discussions with our children related to all things related to the media they consume. They are going to grow up eventually so having honest conversations about how to have a healthy and safe relationship with the digital community is paramount. While some topics should be discussed proactively many of these will happen naturally when implementing…
Co-watching– This is one of the hardest tasks for me personally, mostly because my kids want to watch YouTube videos of people trying not to laugh or playing video games (I’m happy to watch Daniel Tiger with the little one). But honestly it’s a great way to connect by laughing together and also it beats any content filter (because trust me, lots of words make their way through the filters.) Adults can also initiate the co-watching by suggesting a series to watch as a family or starting a tradition like family movie night. Besides books, television and movies are a fantastic catalyst to all kinds conversations about life.
All the Stuff- Now about the physical management because 1) These things are expensive and 2) ALL. THE. CORDS. All of the kids’ devices stay out of the bedrooms at night as part of our plan. But, charger cords were often moved to all corners of the house. After a final mommy meltdown over another broken cord and somehow all of the charger blocks missing we set up this basket system. The charging cables feed in and are connected by these ports.
We have also had our kids start wearing glasses that block the blue light as recommended by our optometrist. There is so much research about how the blue light affects sleep and also causes damage to our eyes.
We still have battles and times where we just give in and let the screens rule the day, but for the most part we are managing in a way that works well for our family.
While kids generally use screens for entertainment, for adults the pull can often be more to stay connected to their work. My business is conducted nearly exclusively online and since I haven’t outsourced any marketing or customer service I often feel the need to check my phone or computer constantly.
Follow the Plan Too– I don’t know how it is in your house, but my kids will totally call me out when I’m being a hypocrite! The adults in our house follow the same general plan about when and where we use devices.
Know Where Your Weaknesses Are– and what is being affected as a result. I’m not the one who will stay up too late on a Netflix binge, but I will be distracted by Instagram or Facebook when I should be taking care of more urgent needs, like folding the laundry rather than running the dryer for the 8th time. The latest iPhone iOS has a new screen time tracker where you can also implement limits which is handy if you don’t have the Circle.
Unplug- I’ve heard it recommended to take a Sabbath or rest for a day a week, a weekend a month, and a week a year. I try my best to embrace this rest in relation to my own screen time, specifically internet and social media usage. Generally I have internet free Sundays for the most part and once a month we do that as a family. I should be better about taking a whole weekend off each month- maybe I will work on that for 2019! For the week off I love doing that during the week of Thanksgiving. Typically we have traveled to be with family, though this year we are staying home. My kids will be out of school all week, so getting any work done isn’t likely to happen. I’ll enjoy this week by doing more reading, cooking and tackling some of those things I get distracted from starting (or finishing). I’m sure I’ll sneak in some Christmas movies too!
I’ll follow up in 2 weeks with what I was able to accomplish during my unplugged week!
Do you use any of these tools to manage screen time? What are the biggest screen time battles in your house?