If you are a parent, chances are you have a love-hate relationship with screens. Especially if your child is into Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft. Or maybe they are watching the newest toy reveal on YouTube Kids? Or watching a famous YouTuber play their favorite video game?
I know. I’m there with you.
It’s hard raising a child in today’s world because screens add an additional layer of complexity to parenting. Chances are you cannot ask your own parents for advice because they might not have had the internet back then.
Now that we are ALL plugged in, it has ushered in a new era of parenting woes and challenges. We now have seen new issues such as video game addiction, social media drama, “Facebook depression”, and cyberbullying. We have heard about the more scary possibilities of accidental exposure to scary images or a chance meeting with a predator lurking where our children are playing, socializing and exploring–virtually online.
However, we must acknowledge that not everything about screens is “bad.” There are plenty of educational offerings and ways technology can bring families together.
RELATED: Six Screen-time Studies that Changed my Parenting Approach (Stuart Dredge, Medium.com)
The thing we can do is educate ourselves about every trend or app your child is showing interest in. Start co-viewing screens with them. Ask them to teach you about it. You can set a rule that you have to preview apps or games first. Head to Common Sense Media to do your own homework on everything digital (including info on movies, books, apps and games) plus reviews from actual parents and children. Ideally, before making your decision or before your child wears you down with repeated asks.
RELATED: A Parent’s Guide to Dealing with Fortnite (Child Mind Institute)
When screens replace face-to-face conversation, hinder physical activity or become your child’s addiction, it’s may be harder to place limits. Definitely don’t let that stop you, it’s a MUST. However, approach this task by involving your child. Talk to them about why they need to learn to transition to something else. It’s the same strategy we take when talking about the need for sleep, exercise and eating healthy foods.
If you think, “What happened, I lost all control! How did it get this way?” Don’t feel like all is lost if you’ve given in in the past. It’s ok. We’ve all been there. We can start again.
I created a tool, or conversation starter, to help parents have that talk with their child. Even if you have a young child just starting to delve into technology or if they are teenagers. This infographic helps center your talk around expectations. It will help your child develop their own self-monitoring habits around their screen time. However, whenever anyone sets out to learn a new skill, we still need check in to monitor. We need to give praise to highlight progress (no matter how big or small).
Choosing to start over and try again will allow families to review or make new family rules. It also forces us to reflect on our own habits as well. This is important. We send mixed messages when we tell children to head outside, but binge watch Netflix or keep scrolling through Facebook.
SUGGESTIONS FOR GETTING STARTED
- Pick a quiet time to share this with your child or during a family meeting.
- Introduce the concept of healthy screen habits.
- Ask your child(ren) for ideas on family rules about screens. For example,meals in our household are screen-free with phones and tablets in a totally separate area.
- Share the infographic by reading it together.
- Ask them if they think it will work and what help they want from you when starting.
- Consider a role play with your child to check if they understand your expectations. Give them their device and then say, “Ok, it’s the weekend, what will you do first?” and then as they talk aloud, give them feedback.
- Put the infographic in a place the child can see.
- Consider printing several of them to keep them in locations where the child will see it.
- Remember to reinforce and praise children when they show they are able to follow the steps!
Note: I now collect emails for each printable I share on my blog. This way, if I update it, you will automatically get the new copy sent directly to your inbox!
I can’t wait for you to use this tool with your family. I hope that it helps the conversation go well. Good luck!