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 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 kick off discussion about what’s realistic—the first step in setting boundaries.
2. Practise mindfulness with them
They will dread the moment when you say ‘screen time is up’. To help manage a meltdown—we know so many parents face this when ending screen time—practise mindfulness together. 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 screen time is up
Wouldn’t you would be frustrated if you were cut off halfway through an email? Empathise—they may be in the middle of a turn, or near the end of a round on a game with just 2 minutes left. Instead, say ‘When this is finished…’, and create a clear expectation so they don’t ask to start another round.
4. Take an interest
Though you don’t want to stop them 30 seconds before the game/video ends, 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. Many parents are happier about screen time when the game is educational. When you know what they love about their screen time, it could inspire non-screen activities. For example, a child who enjoys Minecraft may enjoy building LEGO models. It could even turn into a practical learning experience, like learning to code.
5. Give them notice
We’ve all been deep into something: a TV show, a book, YouTube, work… anything! Sometimes kids can get carried away and lose track of time, just like we can. Give them some notice before their screen time is up. You could start by letting them know they have 15 minutes left, then 5 minutes, then 1. It helps with the transition, and lets them know they need to start wrapping things up.
They will also feel more in control. It’s a great way for them to start experiencing the real passage of time—there isn’t time to start a new round, or it’s time to say bye to their friends so they’re not cut off unexpectedly.
6. Science behind screen time
Most of all, talk to your kids openly about their use of screens. Explain why too much screen time is unhealthy—you could even use YouTube for this! Kids are more receptive to understanding the science behind ‘no screens 1 hour before bed’ 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!