“Five more minutes!” you call into the living room.
Your daughter and son are both engrossed in their tablets. They haven’t left the couch all afternoon.
What’s scarier: you feel they have zero control over it. Take away their devices and they become complaining moping monsters.
To top it off, they’re not even doing anything remotely educational on their devices. It’s all mind-numbing junk food.
So, what to do?
Set a time limit and be the constant enforcer?
What if your kids turned off their devices with zero nagging from you?
Dream come true?
Before we talk about regulating screen time, let’s lay to rest one important issue.
Is screen time really bad?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following limits on screen time for kids over the age of 6:
Place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
Screen time on its own is not inherently evil.
The main drawback of our kids being on screens for too long is that it limits the time they can spend on other activities such as physical play, social interaction, and responsibilities for the family.
When we view it in that respect, there is no guilt in letting our kids play on screens nor is there a set amount of time that we need to cap screen time at.
But, you also want them to be productive. You know that your child is capable of so much and want to see them DO SOMETHING instead of consuming something.
Here’s how you do it:
#1 Encourage them towards a fun goal
I admit. I turn to my phone when I have nothing else I want to do.
Dishes? Oooh, no Facebook is much more important.
Deadline? I think I need to find out how the royal baby is doing.
Kid screaming? Time for some Real Housewives.
Sounds terrible, but oh geez, sometimes screens create such a more appealing escape than real life.
What does stop me from turning to my iPhone is having another goal. However, it needs to be a goal:
- I actually enjoy and
- want to see accomplished.
While most of us moms have unfortunately lost what we find enjoyable -and I must admit, I’m still trying to find a hobby that’s not my work – kids are still in this age of play and possibility.
For instance, my daughter’s currently obsessed with doing handstands and flips off all of our furniture. We encourage it by spotting her a few times a day and enrolled her in a summer tumbling class – where there are mats and minimal tile floor.
My four-year-old son loves building and creating with LEGO’S. So we have three boxes of LEGO pieces for him to dig around in.
Two warnings on this one:
- Simply encourage. Do not go out and plan tons of activities around this interest.
- It’s important that kids take control of this interest. We can’t push them.
What if my kids shrug me off when I suggest something else?
Ever feel like your child listens to his teacher better than he listens to you?
In fact, I use this during parent-teacher conference time to convince my daughter to try something new in school by asking the teacher to suggest it.
Kids are more likely to listen to an adult that’s more of an ally than a parent when it comes to achievement.
I’m not saying to change your role – do not! I don’t plan on changing my role with my own kids. Parents are needed for love, support, and discipline,
But I do want to help you out.
What if your kid stayed busy all summer without you planning a single activity?
Not-So-Bummer Summer is an e-course FOR YOUR KIDS!
Kids who work on personal goals are
- more motivated,
- driven, and
- entertain themselves.
I made a course especially for your kids called Not So Bummer Summer where they will choose a big goal, develop their own plan to work on it and then I teach them how to positively negotiate with you to help them make it a reality.
Make no mistake though, this will NOT be more work for you.
Your kids do the work. The course empowers them and I walk them through every step along the way.
#2 Stop being the “bad guy”
Install a time limit app to be the bad guy, instead.
Many parents tell me how they hate negotiating the end of screen time. It’s always “five more minutes” and then those five more minutes happen five more times which means your child just got an extra 25 minutes of screen time.
Once you and your child have agreed on a set amount of screen time per day, install an app – we use Google Family Link – to enforce the time limit.
Google Family Link automatically shuts down the device after your child reaches her screen time limit.
You can also monitor the apps your child uses and lockdown her phone secretly from your device.
(“Oh, that’s weird Google shut down your phone. Hmm, oh well, now’s a good time for you unload the dishwasher.”)
#3 Teach them why their brains love devices
Social media is the creation of an evil genius. When we talk about addiction, chemically it is one.
Just the other day, my daughter and I painted at a local art shop. I made this fantastic home sign and my daughter created two dancer silhouettes.
We were both pretty stoked about the results.
And I’m going to be totally honest, I wanted to show it off.
So, I loaded a few pictures up to Facebook, pushed the post button and bam… I waited for the likes to come in.
Every single like that appeared in my notifications triggered the release of dopamine in my brain – a neurotransmitter that controls motivation and reward seeking behaviors.
Dopamine feels good and makes me want more of whatever gave it to me.
So I go back to my phone to check again… and again… and again.
If you feel like you can’t control yourself from picking up your cell phone, this is why.
To add to the mania, Facebook, the evil genius it is, added a feature that displays an animated heart or thumbs up with the giver’s profile picture if you are logged on when that comment is given live.
Of course I want to see that animated thumb!!! So, the cycle continues.
My phone is not giving me any lasting happiness, it’s just the source of my next dopamine hit.
And I make this apparent to my daughter. I’m not happy about checking my phone all the time. In fact, it causes me more anxiety, increases my depression and creates a few paranoid tendencies if I’m on it too often.
#4 Show them how apps and games trick them to stay on longer
It’s not just social media that produces the dopamine effect. Games, apps, YouTube…everything we and our kids use has some sort of reward system built in.
- finally achieving that next level in a game.
- Getting bonus points for finishing under a certain time
- Receiving a medal for your longest run on Subway Surfers
Most games and apps have a feature built in that encourages the user to stay on for longer. It’s good to point this out to kids.
Take a look at their favorite app or game and figure out that reward system. Then, point it out to your child. Tell her how the creators designed it to keep her on her tablet longer.
They’re manipulating her brain.
She might shrug you off or say “Whatever, mom” at the time. But, the next time she plays, your comment will slowly seep into her mind and take over.
She’ll become aware just like how I made you aware of the evil genius of Facebook.
To get kids off their screens…
It’s all about balance. Screen time is not inherently evil and we do not need to stand over our kids with a timer telling them when they need to put away their devices.
By making them aware of how addicting it can be, and encouraging other talents we encourage our kids to regulate their own screen time.