We’re going into week 6 of quarantine and parents have been expressing concern around screen time and how much is ok? Parents are struggling with working from home, schooling from home, and having time to themselves. Many are sheepishly coming out of the word work confessing their child has been on the screen more than they would want to admit to other parents.
I’m here to tell you ALL IS OK. Let me set your mind at ease. In this blog I am going to share with you how I don’t limit my boys screen time – THIS is what I do instead.
I don’t limit my kids screen time
You read that right. I don’t set a time limit on screen time. I navigate my kids time on the screen based on their behaviour and regulation. We have to understand that screens is how our children do school, socialize, and learn. It’s not the 80’s anymore my friends. If I can be honest, I mourn that. I wish my children grew up in the time where the outdoors was our life and we knew when to go home when the street lights came on. We don’t live in that day anymore. Our children are growing up on the brink of a technological revolution. Life as we know it has gone to a screen: from shopping, to learning, to meetings – it’s our new way of life.
I watch how my boys react and behave while they are on their screens. Obviously different ages and temperaments can handle varying aspects of screen time differently. My 9 year old has a different capacity for screens than my 13 year old, and that is also based on what he is doing on the screen.
For example, there was a workday that had me running off my feet. My youngest son began to freak out. I realized he had been on his video games for FIVE HOURS! I felt like an epic mama failure. These things are going to happen so give yourself grace. No one told us even 4 months ago that we would have to completely have to relearn how to function at home with work and school. There’s permission to not get this perfect.
When I saw how he was reacting to this amount of time, after I got him a drink of water and a snack (best way to bring our kids back to regulation). When he was calm, we talked through how he was feeling after that amount of time. Turns out we can talk to our kids about these things and see their light bulbs come on for themselves. All I said was, “I noticed after 5 hours of fortnite you became pretty upset. Did you notice that?” This question of what we notice and if they notice it too opens up the door for trust and communication. TRUST is the currency of connection. You can’t parent without it.
Remember, screen time isn’t all the same. Video games are different than TV time which is different than zoom time with friends and family, which is different than learning online. Be careful not to classify all “screen time” the same. It’s not. That’s why watching how different screen activities affect your children and setting your limits with communication and trust is a better option than setting a time limit.
Teach your children how to navigate screens with responsibility
We do our kids no favours by trying to avoid screens. One thing I have learned after over 20 years of working in youth resilience is that the kids who turn out ok are the ones who’s parents were willing to lean into the uncomfortable conversations, helping their kids navigate through tough things like peer pressure, drugs, and sex. The parents who avoided the hard stuff left their children to learn it on their own, which often came from their peers. This is not what we want.
I teach my kids that a screen is no different than the responsibility of driving a car. If we are not responsible drivers, we can get a ticket or have our license taken away. This is the way we work with screens. If there is any online bullying, or viewing sites that are inappropriate then we have to implement boundaries and consequences. For example, my oldest son found a way to hack into his younger brother’s school zoom meeting and posted a swastika. I was mortified. The consequence? He lost his phone and computer for the weekend, but we didn’t end there. Taking our kids screens away doesn’t teach them anything. We need to have honest discussions with our kids about the affects of not being responsible with screens. When I gave my son back his screen he hasn’t done anything like that since, not because I took his screens away, but because of the honest conversation we had with him allowing openness and honesty and hearing his thoughts as well.
Show them the opposite
If you want your child off the screens, don’t take them away, show them the opposite of screen time – connection time. They will never admit it, but time with you is what they are really longing for. Avoid ripping them off the screen to spend time with you, but plan something each day to connect such as game time or movie time or a walk. You are what they’ve been looking for. Time with you is everything.
You are your child’s dope – dopamine that is. The chemical in our brain that releases when we have pure utter joy and excitement. Your child is getting that from screens, but the real fix is from you. If you want them off the screen, show them the opposite.
Teach them THIS mantra
When it comes to teaching our children how to navigate screens, this is the mantra I use:
Above all else guard your heart for this is where your life comes from.
I’ve been teaching my children since they were very young to be careful what they allow their eyes to see or ears to hear because it affects our hearts. We live in a day where our children are exposed to all kinds of rude, disturbing humour. Unfortunately my children haven’t always heeded this mantra as they’ve gotten older. They tell me that this is just the way things are now. It breaks my heart. I remind them of what I have taught them: that the condition of our hearts is one of the most important things we can cultivate in our lives. All I can do is continue to guide them.
When it comes to screens, if you focus on these things rather than strict rules that only leave you feeling like a casualty of war with family connection in shambles. Following these guidelines builds connection and trust.
You’ve got this parents! You are brave. You show up when it’s hard, you love without walls, you forgive when it hurts, and you rise through the storm! I am cheering for you!!
Don’t forget every Tuesday I do a FREE parent webinar from Noon-1pm MST giving you tools to get through this time. You can also order my online course specifically created for parenting through quarantine for only $20! You can order that here.
I want you to come out of this thriving. It’s possible! Don’t do this alone.