Do you get tired of hearing, “Just one more video game?” or “Can I watch a movie today?” I did too!
We started limiting screen time when our children were young. They would ask if they could watch just one more video. I was so tired it was difficult to say no. But as I saw that too much screen time decreased their attention span and made them more irritable, we began limiting screen time to one video a week.
As they matured, we tried various methods of restricting their screen time such as earning screen time by reading and being active. But it was still difficult and time-consuming to enforce. As I thought about it more, I realized they needed to learn how to regulate themselves.
In this video, I share more about why I no longer micromanage my children’s screen time and the four steps I use to help them learn how to manage their own screen time.
How To Teach Your Child To Manage His Screen Time
1. Talk about why it is important to limit screen time.
There are many reasons it is important to limit screen time, but here are a few I discuss regularly with my children.
- We want to fully engage in life and be present with those around us instead of glued to a screen.
- Being able to use technology is a privilege that should be earned through responsible use. If it is not used responsibly, the privilege can be taken away.
- Technology should be a tool, not a master. If we want to engage in deep work and really focus on an important task, we need to be able to limit our use of apps that steal our time and attention.
- We need downtime away from technology in order to rest and recharge so we can perform at our best.
2. Explain how to limit their screen time.
Approach this as you would any skill that is to be learned.
I begin by setting a good example. In this video, I describe how I establish good technology habits for myself and how I help my children develop these habits too.
Set some ground rules or guidelines for your family to abide by. If your children are not willing to abide by the rules, they are not ready to manage their use of technology. I would argue that if they are not ready to abide by these rules, they are not ready to use technology at all. Be sure your guidelines are reasonable. Here are some of our guidelines.
- Phones and computers are docked in a common area at night. (Anything that has Internet access.)
- Use the Do Not Disturb feature during school hours and at night.
- No screens after 8:00 p.m.
- Engage in life. Do not use your device during meals or while engaging with someone else.
- One movie per week.
- One time playing on the computer just for fun each week.
- I have the final authority and can tell them if they are using their devices too much and need to take a break. I also have the authority to take away their screens or install additional parental controls if they demonstrate they are not able to manage their screen time.
Recognize this is a process and they will make mistakes. (Don’t we all?) They will need your help as they learn this new skill. Be patient and understanding.
3. Work together to limit their screen time.
In the beginning, my children asked permission to use screen time. This was still more involved than I wanted to be but was a good first step. I wanted them to be aware of when they were using technology and to help them think through their use of time. I often asked questions such as, “Have you completed your school work? Have you finished your secondary reading? Have you done something active?” Thinking through these questions helped them take the first step in setting boundaries for themselves.
We then moved to them letting me know they were going to use technology. This allowed them more autonomy, but still allowed me to provide some guidance. If I had doubts as to whether they had completed their assignments and chores, I would the questions above to help them think through their use of time and technology.
Eventually, I was able to turn over the responsibility of managing their screen time to them. They do not always manage their screen time well. But the reality is that we all struggle with it. At least they have an opportunity to improve this important life skill while they are still at home. If there are days they are spending way too much on digital media, I will intervene and help them make better choices.
4. Provide accountability.
As your children learn how to manage their own screen time, parental controls and screen time restrictions are very helpful. I find these helpful for myself as well. Here are some tutorials for setting up parental controls.
- How to set up screen time and content restrictions on iOS (This is helpful for your device too!)
- How to set up parental controls on iOS
- How to set up parental controls on Android
- How to set up parental controls on Amazon Kindle Fire HD
- How to set up YouTube strict search
- Use the Covenant Eyes browser instead of Safari or Chrome.
The Do Not Disturb feature can also be another good form of accountability. It removes the temptation to respond immediately. We use it on a schedule at night and manually during school hours.
It is possible to help your child learn to manage his own screen time. This will not only save you a headache and time but will equip him with a very important life skill.