Setting Limits in a Screen-Driven World
August 7, 2014
Technology evolves rapidly. It is becoming part of our lives in an equally fast-paced fashion. We have come a long way from TV and rotary dial telephone sets! A large portion of today’s adult and children’s life is filled with a multitude of screens used as information, entertainment and communication tools.
Our lives are becoming insidiously dominated by technology.
Like with any potential addiction, a call for moderation is a necessity to avoid a technological takeover and to control the adverse effects associated with health and interpersonal relations. Here are a few ideas to help you provide better control on your child’s screen time.
A screen-filled environment!
Most of us are aware that it is not recommended to let children watch TV several hours a week, let alone a day. This “tool” yet comes pretty handy when you are trying to keep the kids occupied while enjoying a moment of relative calm in the house; it makes it easy for you to perform tasks without being disturbed.
Video game consoles and computers are extensively used for that purpose. These days, tablets and smart phones are crammed with applications that make it possible to keep kids entertained. Such devices may be quite convenient in waiting rooms, for example when your survival kit (wax pencils, paper, maps, mini-games, etc.) wears out.
Set the example
You are a role model for your children. Accordingly, in their presence, why not impose limits upon yourself in your own screen time?
Have your kids see that you are aware of the way you are using technology, and that you are taking the necessary steps to restrain yourself (at least until all members of the household are tucked up in bed!) The means to achieve this are quite simple! Expressing comments out loud might suffice:
“Wow, I’ve been holding the tablet on my lap for one hour already! It’s time I do something else! I’m going to read a book!”
“When I come in the house, I turn off my phone because I don’t want to be disturbed when I spend time with you, my little ones! Who wants to draw with me?”
After hearing the timer buzzer: “My 30-minute session on the computer is up. Now I’m off for a short walk. It does me good not to spend too much time on the computer. Who’s coming with me?”
Use and enforce time restrictions
Take a moment to discuss the question with your spouse in order to find common ground BEFORE imposing restrictions on your children; this will allow you to send them a clear and coherent message.
Once you settle on a given use limit, brief your children on the new guidelines and explain why you have decided to establish limits regarding their screen time in the family context.
As some children might vehemently protest at these new restrictions, listen with empathy to what they have to say. As a family, take advantage of this discussion to find activity ideas to make a proper use of the newly-recovered free time.
On a practical level, how can one limit screen time?
- Just say no to unauthorized screen access in certain rooms of your home (e.g. bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and dining room), except in the case of special events.
- Impose and enforce specific time frames using a timer.
- Using a thermometer (a screen time monitoring tool can be found here: Nanny secours), monitor and mark the time your children spend in front of a screen. This will allow them to keep track of and appropriately manage their own screen time. To each his own thermometer! Furthermore, you may allow your child to exercise a simple privilege when he doesn’t use his maximum screen time entirely. For example, you could offer him to make his bed on the day of his choice, the following week. It’s nothing extravagant, but nevertheless interesting. Obviously, the privileges offered should be tailored to suit the ages of your children.
- Plan an entire day without screen time (once or twice a month)―at regular intervals.
Desperate times call for desperate measures
Remember that all these interactive objects have more to do with personal desires than actual needs! Although a lot of fun, and handy at times, such devices are in no way essential. Your children can perfectly do well without. Therefore, confiscating technological devices or barring access to objects over a given period is not an over-the-top statement.
Keep in mind that using these interactive tools should remain a privilege which can potentially make negotiations quite interesting! Why not have him roll the dice to obtain minutes of access to screens (or to his favourite device).
Hélène Fagnan, Family Coach
Founder of Nanny secours
www.nannysecours.com (French only)