Screen time is a tricky tightrope to balance when you are a parent.
You could try to raise a screen-free child, but as you are reading this on a screen, that is unlikely to happen. Most likely you are winging it and working out which apps you can let your kid use, and how to view the amount of screen time per day.
What will happen is the challenge between the ideal and the real in a way that is best for your family. Throughout the pandemic, many families' rules were upended, and using the screen was the only way to talk to grandparents, friends, and go to school.
There are also some aspects of screen time that you may like as it builds a better bond with the family. Say for example movie night, reading a book online, and FaceTiming an Aunty in a different country. Technology has the power and potential to bring everyone together, and it will never leave our children’s lives again.
When it comes down to it, technology is just a tool, and it can be an enriching part of our lives. Phones and social media provide older children with responsibilities that they would never have had before. Such as seeing inappropriate images. Parents need to make sure that they talk about this side of the internet with their children so that the kids aren’t left alone to navigate what to do and how they should react.
As with most aspects of parenting, teaching your children how to have a healthy attitude to screens is more mentoring than monitoring. You can’t keep children away from doing the bad stuff, but you need to actively demonstrate how you have a healthy relationship with your screen. Be mindful of how you use it. You could verbalise what you are doing, say “I am putting my phone next door because I can’t concentrate”, or “I’ve turned off my notifications because that pinging is so annoying.”
You also need to enforce the protection of family time. A good way to do this is by setting household rules that are age-appropriate. By doing this, your kids will know exactly what they can and can’t do.
Some of these policies will be appropriate for all ages, including parents, such as:
- No phones at the dinner table.
- No screens for an hour before bedtime.
- No phones before school
- No screens in the bedroom
When is the Right Age for a Phone?
While many experts would say that the right age for a phone is 13, the more practical answer is when they need one. This is usually when they leave your direct supervision, such as catching the bus to school or have after-school sports practices.