There isn't a parent out there who hasn't relied on extra screen time to get their family through the last few months. Now, parents are wondering how to get their kids back on track. We’ve been talking to expert Liane Katz of Mama.Codes who shared her tips with us and our nannies over on Clubhouse.
For those that missed it, here’s a quick recap:
1. Involve the kids in setting their own rules on screen time. They’ll surprise you!
For kids over the age of four, open up the conversation around how much time they think they should be allowed on their screens. Chances are you’ll be surprised at how little time they suggest. This can open up the discussion of what’s realistic and is the first step in setting boundaries.
2. Practise mindfulness with them
They will dread the moment when you say ‘screen time is up now’. To help manage a meltdown – which we know so many parents have suffered when it comes to ending screen time – practise mindfulness together. For example, deep breathing is great when you’re asking them to wrap up screen time, to help manage the transition.
3. Don’t cut them off as soon as their agreed screen time is up
It is guaranteed that you would be frustrated if you were cut off halfway through an email! Empathise that they may be in the middle of a turn or near the end of a round on a game with just 2 minutes left.
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4. Take an interest
As much as you don’t want to stop them just 30 seconds before they were going to wrap up anyway, you also don’t want them to take a mile when you’ve given an inch. The better you understand what they’re doing online, the better you can negotiate an end time. You don’t want to let them ‘just finish’ something they’re building on Minecraft, if that something is the colosseum! Taking an interest in what they enjoy online also paves the way to looking for more educational activities they may enjoy, which you would be happy for them to spend more time on. Or, something non-screen related. For example, a child who enjoys Minecraft may enjoy learning how to code online, or build certain LEGO models.
5. Give them notice
We’ve all been deep into something – whether it’s a TV show, a book, YouTube video, piece of work… anything! Sometimes kids can get carried away and lose track of time, just like we can. Giving them some notice before their screen time is up, for example letting them know they have 15 minutes left and then 5 minutes, helps with the transition and lets them know they need to start wrapping things up. There isn’t time to start a whole new round of a game, or it’s time to say bye to their friends so they’re not cut off unexpectedly.
Make after school fun again
Most of all, talking to your kids openly about their use of time on screens, and discussing why too much screen time is unhealthy works wonders. Kids are more receptive to understanding the science behind ‘no screens 1 hour before bed’ for example, than you might imagine.
Remember, be realistic with what you’re setting out to achieve with your kids. We can’t expect these habits to change overnight!