It’s a constant argument in most households, the battle to get kids off their screens. So how do you win the screen time argument? Here are our top tips.
When we interviewed kids and young people as part of our market research for the development of ScreenCoach, they admitted that they spent too much time on screens but loved it and found it really hard to moderate themselves. They wished they had more self-control to have more balance.
Chances are, however, if you’re ready to implement ScreenCoach to rein in that screen time, your kids are probably going have some objections! How you handle these objections is critical. Research has shown that an overall “we’re working together to solve this problem” approach rather than “I’m the parent and I make all the rules” is a far more effective way to get kids to co-operate *
Keys to any successful negotiation is to listen to any objection and make it clear that you understand and are sympathetic. Be willing to negotiate and compromise. If you can work together to make decisions moving forward, your children are far more likely to co-operate, and you will reach the home harmony you are craving for.
So, to support you, we’ve put together 5 of the most common objections your kids may raise about limiting screen time.
You can’t make me!! (aka “You can’t tell me what to do”, “You aren’t the boss of me!”)
As your parents, we take our responsibility to care for you seriously. However, we would rather not tell you what to do! It’s really important for a healthy life that you spend enough time exercising, playing non-screen games, helping around the house, and doing your homework, and we want to help you with that. We have looked at various screen time management options and we have chosen ScreenCoach because you get to choose what you do and how much screen time you have and when.
“But all my friends are allowed to play whenever they want!” (Until late at night, or after school or all weekend or whatever the case may be).
Acknowledge that it is tough when it seems like your friends are allowed to have more screen time than you. It might be helpful to do a fact check with them on that - ask them if there are any kids that are not allowed screen time during the week or who are only allowed a small amount of time in total. Explain that you are looking after their wellbeing and long-term health - a bit like if a child was allowed to have junk food every night, it would seem unfair that your parents make you eat vegetables, but actually it is better for you in the long run. Ask your child what time would be reasonable for them to get off and consider a compromise you are both willing to stick to.
“But I need to use my computer to do schoolwork”
ScreenCoach has modes that you can set up so that when your child is doing schoolwork on a laptop or PC, they can access “schoolwork mode” which won’t allow them to access apps such as Netflix - and isn’t included in the daily allowable fun screen time.
“But I promised my friend I would play with her straight after school today!” (Or this weekend or every minute of every day!) ;-)
There are a couple of ways you can approach this one. You could grant your child an exception because they promised their friend and you don’t want to let their friend down, while being clear that they must not promise this again if they know that is an off-screen time, because next time you’ll say no. Otherwise, simply ask them to message their friend saying that they forgot they needed to do their homework and other things after school and they can play later or on the weekend.
How come we’re not allowed screens but you’re always on your phone or laptop or can watch TV?
Most parents will be able to answer honestly that they are using their phone and laptop for work. But this may be an opportunity for you to examine your own screen time, and if possible, agree that you also would benefit from some non-screen time and show your kids that you’re in this with them. In our modern world where we can work from anywhere, be mindful of how often you are working at home when your kids are around, especially after hours. Or perhaps you are addicted to social media. What example is this setting them for their own future? Kids are more likely to do as you do, not as you say. If you yourself are not getting enough exercise, and other recreational non-screen time, perhaps they could help you change this and you can do some things together. I am sure there are many kids who would prefer quality time with their parents rather than screen time.
Everything seems boring when screens are turned off and many of our children have forgotten the art of simple creative play which is crucial to social, emotional, and physical development in young children. Parents are busier than ever, and screens are a convenient way of keeping the kids entertained and quiet while you get stuff done. We get it! Many adults are also consumed by screens and have lost the impetus to do anything else.
But if we don’t find a healthy balance of screen time, it can cause a variety of problems for your children.
By Stephanie Kakris who has a Masters in Psychology and is a published parenting author. She is the co-founder of ScreenCoach, a combined hardware and software platform where kids are allocated a set amount of screen time, and after their time is up, they need to go and complete activities such as exercise, chores or non-screen play to earn more time before they can resume. Find out more at www.myscreencoach.com