With extra time at home over the school holidays, how do you plan on managing the kids screentime? Here are our thoughts on navigating this.
Picture this . . . You’ve rented a holiday home with another family for a much-needed holiday. The sun is shining, the beach is just up the road. Instead of enjoying the surroundings, the 5 kids just want to sit around the house and play on their phones or laptops. Sometimes they play together, but they often play separately too. You suggest that they put the games away and head down the beach. All that you hear is whining and “the beach is boring, why would we want to do that?” “There’s nothing to do down there.” You wonder why you even bothered going away and spending the money. You allow that to go on for a while… and then you put your foot down and confiscate all devices. The kids whine even more now. “I’m bored … we have nothing to do”. You respond, “I didn’t pay all this money for us to have a holiday and for you to sit on your devices all day!”
“Well, we didn’t ask you to,” they reply.
The key to managing screen time over the holidays is open and honest communication with your kids… And planning ahead. After they’ve finished school and had a couple of days R&R, sit down, and have a chat with them. Explain to them that they won’t be spending all day every day on their devices and ask them to come up with a list of screen free things they can do. You may be happy to allow them to use their screens if they are using a YouTube video to follow a recipe to bake something or following an art tutorial to do a painting.
Make sure you include things you can do as a family, things they can do on their own, and things they could invite friends to do from creative activities, physical activity, chores, etc. The best plan is to come up with a routine which you can all stick to, for example, they can be on screens every morning until 11 and then again from 7:30 - 9pm. Whatever suits your family best. It’s important to ask the kids for their input and have them feel like they’re setting the rules rather than you. This will help greatly with their willingness to co-operate.
If you’re going on holiday, ask them what they would like to do. Many Australians holiday at the beach, so plan ahead by borrowing or buying a simple beach cricket set, a boogie board, skimming balls, bucket, and spade for younger kids. For indoor activities, borrow a large jigsaw that everyone can help with, board games, chess, books, activity books, card games. Again, ask them what they would like to bring - if they choose, they are more likely to embrace it. Get the kids involved in making the snacks and meals and clearing up. Get them into the habit of chatting during mealtime. Click here to read our list of conversation starters at the dinner table. https://www.myscreencoach.com/post/10-conversation-starters-for-the-dinner-table/
It’s important that you have a holiday too, so if allowing the kids to be on screens each morning while you have some rest and quiet time for yourself works for you, then do that.
However, if you’re really brave, you might like to leave all the devices at home. The kids will most likely protest and beg you to bring them, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly the kids will adjust and make their own fun. The kids we spoke to when designing ScreenCoach recognised how dependent they were on their devices and were actually grateful when their parents took them away, even though it was a tough adjustment at first. The kids may even thank you for being strong at the end of the holiday as they realise how much fun is to be had without the constant allure of screens!
By Stephanie Kakris 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