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A summer screen time plan for everyone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….

Summer Break!

But I only seem to hear kids singing that song and not parents. Summer can be a wonderfully enjoyable time of year as a parent. IF you set yourself and your children up for success ideally before summer even arrives. In our digital age, screen time is a hot topic of conversation. I recently read this article written by a mom who allowed her children completely unrestricted screen time. This got me to thinking about this topic and where I stood on the issue.

Should we place firm boundaries around our kids with regard to screen time?

Or…

Should we allow them to figure it out for themselves?

Does it have to be one or the other? We as humans try to make everything black and white, yes or no, this or that. Why can’t it be both?

>>> Fill out the form below to get my FREE guide – 50 Ways to Make Screen Time Manageable in Your Home! <<<

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Screen time doesn’t have to draw a line between you and your child

I was talking with a parent who was struggling with this same issue in her home. She was very fearful that if she did not place firm boundaries down (aka “control” her child with regard to screen time) her daughter would become a screen-obsessed junkie. First of all, it is important for us to realize when we are allowing FEAR to control our thoughts and our actions. Things rarely go well when FEAR is in the driver’s seat.

Can we discern when our concern for our child is rooted in a place of fear as opposed to it being rooted in a place of love and trust, only wanting the best for our child? That is perhaps the most important question to answer.

Recognizing Fear

Until we recognize what it looks like when fear is driving us, we are helpless to do anything about it. But once we can recognize when it shows up, we can then address it and move through it. With regard to screen time, it is important to know where our child is developmentally. It is important that your expectation of their ability at this point in time, given their strengths, weaknesses, diagnoses, etc. is accurate. There are plenty of resources out there to help you determine what that looks like for your child.

Where do we go from here?

Once you know what is appropriate for your child, what if you were to sit down with him/her and discuss what screen time might look like this summer? What are their thoughts? You may be surprised by what they come up with. But also keep in mind that this plan should not be set in stone.

Before you try it, you have no idea if it will be a successful plan. In the conversation with your child, you can discuss how you will both try this setup and then re-evaluate (in a day, a few days, a week?) to see how things are going.

And if things are not going well, you may come to your child before your agreed-upon re-evaluation to discuss. But make sure that you are not coming to these conversations from a place of fear. Because when fear is in charge, things go downhill from there.

The big picture

Inside of this initial conversation about screen time should also be a discussion about what makes up a healthy balance in life. Screens, but also outside play, physical activity, eating healthy foods, spending time with friends, reading, etc. It is important to help our child balance the screen time with all the other parts that make up a well-lived life. The other point that the author made in this article was that when kids get a new video game, they will likely be obsessed with it for a time, as we adults are when we “sink our teeth” into something new.

But eventually the novelty wears off and they are on to something else, IF we allow things to progress naturally. Why should we think that their patterns and habits would be much different than ours?

To review…

When we come from a place of fear AND dig our heels in with our children, that is where the epic power struggles begin. We are giving a lot of attention, focus and energy to the thing we are fearing. This makes it seem 100 times bigger than it needs to be. To avoid this scenario, it is important to make sure that we first check in with ourselves before we ever address anything related to screens (or anything else that brings up fear for us). Our children know us better than we possibly realize, and they know when FEAR is driving.

I wrote this blog last summer, but there was one thing I wanted to add that has come up in sessions with my clients a few times recently. That is the concept of time limits in regards to screens. Wonderful organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics have offered us time limit screen guidelines for our children.

The problem with time limits

The problem with using time limits for screen-time use with our children is that the vast majority of what they do, at least in terms of video games, is level or round-based and not time-based. For example when we tell our son he has five minutes left of his hour for video games, it is likely he is playing a game that has levels, which likely cannot be saved until a later date. What I have found with my own children and now recommend to my clients is to give their children a 5-10 minute warning when the time is almost up and remind them to finish the level they are on and then turn off the video game.

This is respectful of them and makes it much more likely that they will honor the screen-time limit by turning their game off at the natural stopping point in the game rather than because the timer has gone off.

I have created a FREE screen-time download. This will help you begin to develop a structure in your home around technology and screen time with your children. This download offers 50 ideas for navigating technology with your children. It’s a great place to start. You can download it below. But if you find yourself still struggling with this issue, please reach out to me. I help parents with this topic all the time.

>>> Fill out the form below to get my FREE guide – 50 Ways to Make Screen Time Manageable in Your Home! <<<

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What is your plan for summer screen time in your home?

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