I recently was at a coffee shop near a couple of moms with two elementary-aged kids. The little boys were darling—until they demanded their iPad, or their ‘puter, as they call it (short for computer, pronounced “pooter”). “I want my ‘puter!” they screamed. “He has my ‘puter!” they’d yell when someone took the iPad. One mom sighed and said, “I knew I shouldn’t have brought his iPad,” and then gave in to the screams. And believe me, I know it’s a whole lot easier just to give them the ‘puter to keep them quiet or get them to stop begging. Many a time I’ve caved to my 11-year-old after he’s bartered, bargained, and badgered me for “just five more minutes” of screen time.
But study after study is finding that kids who are on their screens a lot—more than two hours a day—lose the ability to focus on what’s important, a skill vital in schoolwork and on the job. They lose emotional skills and social skills. They become vulnerable to online addictions like gambling and pornography. So it’s time we buckle down and set some rules. Here are 5 screen time recommendations and guidelines parents and kids need to follow.
1. Screen time is a privilege.
Computers can be taken away. TVs can be turned off. Cell phones can be confiscated. Help your children understand that screen time is a privilege given by moms and dads as they see fit. So be bold about limiting screen time, especially for children younger than two.
2. Screen time is a choice.
Screen time should not be the automatic default when the kids are bored, noisy, or in your hair. Decide how much time you want your child to have each day for screen time and stick to it.
Screen time should not be the automatic default when the kids are bored, noisy, or in your hair.
3. Screen time doesn’t mix with company.
When guests come to your house, the screens get turned off. When you’re out to eat as a family, the screens are turned off.
4. Screen time is not private.
This is one of the most important of all the screen time recommendations because it keeps your kids safe from online predators. Mom and Dad have 100 percent access to all screen activity. That means texts can be read, internet surfing will be monitored, TV shows are approved by parents, and no screens are allowed in the bathroom.
5. Screen time has no place at the table.
Mealtimes are for conversation, checking in, sharing family stories, and teaching manners and social skills. Screen time is a roadblock to all of that. Make the most of mealtimes with these eight ways to bond with your kids over dinner.
If you need a hand in enforcing, reminding, or motivating, we have plenty of great resources for you. Our Screen Time Tracker will help everyone in the family keep tabs on just how long each person’s eyes are locked on one of those shiny rectangles. Because after all, knowing is half the battle! If screen time is the carrot you want to dangle in front of your kids, try our If…Then printable or our Screen Time Tickets. You can also use the tickets to ration time. And if you’ve decided your child is responsible enough to take the next step, our Cell Phone Contract and Social Media Contract make your expectations (and the consequences if they don’t meet them) crystal clear.
When do you have the most difficulty keeping your kids away from screens?