In the last few weeks, we have been exploring our relationships with screen time and the importance of evaluating how much time your children are spending plugged in. This week we want to talk about some practical solutions and conversations you can use today. It is important to note that when you make a conscious decision to change your family’s relationship with screen time, children and teens might see this as a punishment. In all changes with your family, be clear about the purpose, and how this best supports your family values. The most important piece of changing a family behavior is to follow through consistently. Many times families will feel defeated because they believe they have made a change when in reality, they only reinforced the change half of the time. Below we share an example from the Curtis family and how they introduced this change to their children consistently to ensure success.
1. First, it was crucial for the adults in the Curtis family to be in agreement with the proposed screen time allowance for each day. They first took the current number of hours their children were in front of a screen and chose to reduce this number. They agreed that the kids could have 30 minutes of iPad time and 30 minutes of TV a day after school. Currently, the kids were watching 2 hours of TV and 1 hour of iPad a day.
2. The Curtis family choose to have this family conversation on a Sunday during a low-stress period rather than on Monday when the kids are looking forward to coming home to their regular routine.
3. A list of other activities such as crafts, reading, or playing games was created to remind the kids what other activities they could do when not in front of a screen.
4. Here is how the conversation was introduced:
“As a family, we have decided to be more intentional about the screen time we use each day. What this looks like for our family is 1 hour of screen time per day. You can choose to have this time on your iPad, TV, or both. We have created a list of other activities we can do when we are not using screen time that will be fun and encourage our creativity. We are not doing this as a punishment, or to take away fun, but we think it is important for our health and well-being. We know this is a big change, but we are confident that this is the best thing for our family.”
5. The Curtis family understood that they needed to be patient with their children about this change and that it might evoke some negative emotions. The kids had questions which were answered and complaints that were validated by their parents.
6. The Curtis family decided to be consistent with the changes and stick to the 1 hour of screen time per day (including weekends). Although initially hard to be consistent with this new guidelines, due to the children’s complaints and feelings, after about one month, the family adapted and even began to enjoy their time away from the screen. The family now regularly plays games, sports, and paints during their downtime.
Are you needing some practical tools? There are hundreds of free apps that can further assist. Try checking out this online resource for budgeting screen time: Healthychildren.org offers a Free Family Media Plan that you can create here: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx