One of the best things you can do for your kids is teach them boundaries. Helping them learn to set limits and live by them will go a long way in every aspect of their life.
At The Screen Smart Podcast, we believe you should have daily limits on screen time. That may look different for each family, and some days may look different than others in each family. But having a daily limit is just good practice.
So how do we find balance? What is the right amount of time for kids to have when using some type of device? Here are a few questions we would ask you to consider the next time your kid asks, “can I have screen time?”
Is this bringing our family together?
My kids love using iMovie on my iPad to make movie trailers. They can spend an hour coming up with the funniest, most creative ideas and bring them to life with technology. It has brought them closer together, and made some great memories they will carry with them for a lifetime.
However, technology has an immense power to separate family members. It can distract us from interacting with each other, and make time pass by quicker than we recognize. If we are not careful, we will all be on the couch or at the dinner table with our noses buried in some device. Let’s use screens to bring our families together.
Is this strengthening our relationships or damaging them?
We have a saying in our house that we stole from one of my sisters-in-law. It’s simple, and has become effective at reminding us to be mindful of others when using our devices. When someone in the family is talking, and another is on the phone (usually my wife or me), someone will yell out the following catch phrase:
It’s a light-hearted way to say “Hey, I matter more than your phone. Whatever you need to deal with is much less important than the person right in front of you. Whatever you’re looking at can wait.”
It matters to our kids that we are engaged with them when we are physically present. Furthermore, as parents we need to set good examples for our kids by the way we live our lives. We need to demonstrate self-control with our own devices if we expect our kids to follow suit.
Is this exposing my children to attitudes or concepts they aren’t ready for?
When handing over a screen to your kid, do you know what they are watching? Do you pre-screen the shows and apps they use? Do you ask questions about what they watched, played, or listened to?
If not, you may be surprised at what they’re watching. We can hardly watch TV with our kids and not see some form of violence or sexual innuendo. Similarly, the attitudes displayed by characters on TV shows can be frightening. The negative talk, sarcasm, belittling, and aggressive attitudes shape the way they interact with people in the real world. And this is from shows made for kids!
The things kids are exposed to have a huge impact on their belief systems. The more we see instances of violence in media, the more desensitized to it we become. It becomes our normal. We end up having less empathy. We begin to see violence as a way to resolve problems. And down the road, it can lead to bigger problems like bullying, low self-esteem, and pornography.
Take Charge of Screen Time
Sometimes, it’s really hard to get away from our phones. I get it…I really do. With me running a business, my wife homeschooling our 4 children, commitments at church, and all the activities our kids are involved in, it seems like someone always needs one of us. There is a constant string of work emails, school planning, and schedule-juggling going on.
A useful app that can help you keep track of your screen use is called Moment. (https://inthemoment.io/) It automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit.
The bottom line is this: our kids are watching and learning from everything we do. They will emulate who we are in a lot of ways, and I want my kids to look back and remember a father that made them a priority instead of some distant digital being.