Seriously, what the heck to do about screens, devices, phones, laptops, tvs, handheld games, X-Box, Playstation, YouTube, YouNameIt.
It's one of my most hated parenting tasks - monitoring, AND setting, AND upholding limits on the screens. Ugh, Ick, Groan! It's the worst. And yet -- here we are. As we head into the holidays the kids scheduled time ramps down, and their begging for the screens ramps up. To keep you sane here are 8 tips and thoughts.
1. Screen Free Zones and Times – Make the rooms in your house uphold limits for you. Create screen free zones and time – no screens upstairs, at meal times or at bedtime. Yo! Limits work best if parents (ahem, that’s YOU) are working within the same boundaries.
2. Communication, creation, consumption – Not all screen time is created equal. Be aware if your kid is spending hours and hours consuming (avoid), or communicating (fine, within limits) or creating (yay!).
3. What are YOU doing? - Seriously. If we are constantly texting or we need to have our phone on for work (I hear you whining), what message/modeling are we sending? Children do as we do, not as we say (Darn IT! But true).
4. Get OUT! - Not in the Elaine Bennis kind of way (Seinfeld fans click here, you are welcome) but in an out of the house kind of way. Plan activities where kids can’t have a phone or device. Water activities (so genius!). Active activities – hiking, biking, skiing. Act super duper generous with the device until you get them on the mountain, in the water, on the trail and then - HAH! Device free 5 hours.
5. Ask Questions - Begin a series of open ended conversations. Need a refresher on WHAT an open ended conversation is? I got you, click here. To get started try some of these -- What’s your favorite game on your iphone? How much time do you think you should be spending on a screen? How much time do your friends get on their phones (don’t believe everything they tell you)? Would you show me some of your favorite YouTube videos (Instagram posts, Vines, etc.)? What new app are all you kids using these days (it changes hourly)?
6. Then LISTEN - Underused parenting tool – listening. Click here for a refresher. LISTEN to what their answers are to the above questions. Do not comment, do not give them statistics, do not tell them what life was like when you were young, just listen. You got it? Zip your lip, sit on your hands and learn what your kids actually think.
7. They Are Gonna Sneak: Kids love these devices passionately. Screens make them feel soothed, keep them in contact with their friends, and make them feel connected and productive. I am NOT saying this is accurate, but screens are seductive. Please do not freak out WHEN they sneak.
8. We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know: Nobody has the answers yet to the screens and children. We are pioneers, we simply have to do the best we can with the information we have. Chill AND uphold limits. Then gather your family and watch ELF, because that movie is HYSTERICAL!