With the infiltration of screens at home and at school, it can be hard knowing where to set limits on screen time with children. Often, screen times seem to alienate. Your child goes off into zombie mode leaving family members excluded, but many children are delighted when parents show an interest, and scheduling in screen time together can be a way to foster warmth and connection.
Here's how Hand in Hand Instructor Catherine Fischer handled screen time limits in her house with her son as he grew.
Make Screen Time Your Time
“Screen time and Special Time have been an issue I’ve needed to handle differently at various times over the years. When my son was very young and needed lots of close supervision and his screen time was very limited, I didn’t want to give up the freedom to do other things during his screen time. In those days, I would allow extra screen time if he wanted to do something screen-related during Special Time. This way, I could enjoy my “freedom” during his “regularly scheduled” screen time and give him my full attention without resentment during Special Time when it involved screen time.”
Tip: Watch one or two of the shows to make sure you are comfortable with the content. Set a time limit and stick to it. It can be easy to get involved with our own tasks and let screen time stretch on, but that increases the chance that your child will become disconnected.
Make Screen Time Special Time
“As my son grew older, and became more heavily interested in screen time as well as having a bit more allowed in a day, I switched to saying that we could watch a show or play a video game during Special Time but that it would count toward his daily allowance of screen time.
That seemed to work well for us, and I could still be somewhat flexible with this rule depending on how much attention I felt like I had.”
Tip: If you are having trouble sharing the enthusiasm for what your child is watching, try focusing in on his or her enjoyment of it instead. Watch your child rather than the screen and indulge in his excitement of the show or game.
Let Screen Time Your Child's Way To Teach You
“We’ve had lots of great times with screen time during Special Time. I think the longest-running regular use of screen time was when my son was in late elementary school and in middle school. He was playing Minecraft. Parents I talked to seemed divided about the value of the game, and many were frustrated and confused by how much their children loved it, and why. By sitting with my son, watching him play, and asking him occasional questions, I learned a lot about the game and why he loved it.
It helped us to be connected at other times as well. For example, when we would hear or see something that reminded him of the game, sometimes I felt like I could read his mind and we would both say the same thing at the same time.”
Tip: Tech that our kids are more familiar with than we are can be a great learning opportunity – for us! Kids' confidence in their abilities grows when they are given chances to lead and direct, and that can help keep us invested when we have feelings about screens, screen time limits or what's being played.
Finding your own peace with the amount of screen access your kids have is a very personal choice and one that takes lots of consideration. If you have strong feelings about it and want to explore why that might be, taking the subject to a listening partner can be helpful. Find out more about Listening Partnerships here.