Want to learn how to limit screen time for kids? Below are five parenting tips for helping teach kids mindful screen usage so they can learn to self-regulate.
Our family doesn’t limit screen time; however, we are on a mission to teach our children self-moderation and balance.
I admit, when I hear parents talking about adding strict time limits to iPad use or forcing their kids to earn screen time with chores, I shake my head and think, “No, no, no. You’re looking at this situation backward.”
Here’s my logic: The Three Stooges is a lame TV show.
I was eight, but I remember it like it was like yesterday… My two cousins peeked around the corner, cautiously watching their mom leave the house. They waited until the screen door banged shut, then they flipped the channel.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“We’re watching The Three Stooges.”
“Why? The cartoon was better,” I argued.
“Because we’re not supposed to.”
See, the thing is, restriction makes even the mundane appealing. Creating usage charts, making kids earn screen time, and setting strict or rigid limits for your kids… in my opinion, most of these approaches just make screen time seem even more appealing than it already is.
As I write this post, I cannot stop humming this classic song.
We have to stop pretending we can “unplug” our children and instead think forward. Technology is an integrated part of our kids’ lives… and it will continue to be throughout their lives. We need to change the conversations we’re having with our children.
Instead of restricting screen time, we need to teach our children balance in a world where technology is abundant. We must introduce them to the concept of mindful usage. How?
How to Limit Screen Time For Kids: 5 Tips for Teaching Mindful Usage
Here are five tips for teaching your kids to mindful screen usage so you can get rid of screen time rules, charts, and hassles.
1. Set self-imposed screen time limits.
Chat with your children about what they think is a reasonable amount of screen time. The depth of the conversation will depend on the age of your child. Toddlers to teens will all have their own thoughts; both will likely start with an absurdly high number. Rather than knocking their suggestion, use questions to bring usage time down to a range where you feel comfortable. Your kiddos need to know your family’s general stance towards screen time.
2. Realize that sometimes it rains, literally.
When we create strict limits with anything (dieting, exercise routines, meal planning), life tends to get in the way. Instead of providing your child strict limits, teach your kids to assess situations, and to be flexible accordingly. So if it’s a rainy day, your kiddo might play an extra 30 minutes on PBS Kids. No biggie.
3. When it comes to screen time, rise above,”Do as I say, not as I do.”
Think about how you use YOUR phone or tablet. Are you sneaking a “quick peek” at your phone because your kiddo’s story about a friend seems like it’s going on forever? Flip the scenario and think forward. Imagine you’re trying to talk to your teen daughter and she starts fiddling with her phone mid-conversation. Can you imagine your response? “Are you even listening to me?!?”
When you’re using screens, think forward about all the ways you are setting examples for your kids:
- Do you check text messages at stoplights?
- Do you look at Facebook while the grocer packs your items (instead of interacting with him)?
- Do you leave the dinner table when you hear that ping to check a text message?
- Do you play on your laptop or tablet while you talk to your spouse at night?
I know I’m guilty of ALL of these things on occasion. When I think forward, though, it really helps me put my mindless actions into perspective, so I can set a better example.
4. Recognize that not all screen time is equal.
It’s important for your kids to understand this and be mindful of their choices. Following along with a drawing tutorial on Art Hub for Kids, doing a lesson on Khan Academy, or playing Math vs. Zombie is different than playing Subway Surfers. Talk with your kids about enriching ways they can use their screen time. (Of course, this is an ongoing lesson that will happen over the course of many discussions.)
5. Reduce screen time by inspiring your child to live offline.
When you see your child on a screen, entice him or her with an offline adventure, project, or idea. So often parents (including myself, at times) default to a screen as a quick fix during the witching hour. Keep your eyes open for alternative solutions and BOOKMARK or pin them for later.
Encourage your kids to spend time outdoors. Introduce them to your hobbies, try things like: baking, painting, photography, quilting, birding, etc. (Hint: Never underestimate the power of traditional board games!) The point of all these things is simply to get them interacting with the real world around them.
In the end, I’d argue we need to teach our kids self-moderation and balance, with a bit of flexibility thrown in.
. . .
Tool For Creating Screen Time Limits With Your Kids
I’ve been playing with a new app on my iPhone this week called OurPact. What first caught my attention was the company’s mission statement:
OurPact empowers parents to guide their children through the balanced use of technology.
Here’s how the Apple Store describes the app:
OurPact is a breakthrough parental control app that harnesses the power of Internet and Application blocking in order to teach children proper device use and responsibility. By syncing your family’s devices to OurPact, you now have the power to manage your entire family’s device use under one platform.
OurPact gives parents the power to:
- Block children’s Internet and Apps across all synced desktops, as well as Apple and Android devices
- Schedule Internet and App use according to your child’s daily weekday and weekend routines
- Set a limit to the number of hours your children spend on the Internet and within Apps
- Block Internet at-a-touch or allow additional access, whenever you feel your child “needs more time”
- Block all apps (eg. Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), as you see fit.
After the girls and I chatted about what THEY thought was a good amount of weekly screen time, we added a schedule in OurPact. Since they helped create the schedule, they felt in control and empowered by the situation. We currently have two blocked periods at our house: dinner and bedtime (see another schedule example in the graphic above).
What I like most about OurPact, though, is the flexibility to modify the schedule (or access, in general) based on any given situation. You can override the schedule with the touch of a button. All and all, pretty cool stuff.
As we discuss this topic, I can’t help but think of this quote…
The human spirit must prevail over technology.ALBERT EINSTEIN
I’d love to chat with you in the comments below. How are you handling screen time at your house? What has worked — or failed — with your kiddos? How are you teaching them responsibility, moderation, and mindfulness when it comes to technology?
We’re all in this together.
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