We so often get asked about how to manage screen time when it comes to the children. It sometimes feels like a losing battle trying to drag them away from the iPad, computer or television. We asked expert Dr Maryhan Baker to help us with a few easy steps.
Agree your household rules on technology use and consistently apply these rules
If you’re looking for tips on how to manage screen time, it’s important to first set aside some time with your partner and discuss what your household technology use rules will be. Remember every household is different so do not be swayed by what others are doing, set up rules, which fit with your family’s values.
Once these limits have been agreed the rules must be clearly communicated to your children, so they know what is and is not allowed. To be effective these rules need to be consistently applied, day in and day out. The rules must also apply to the adults. For example, if you decide there will be no mobile phones at the table whilst you eat, then you must also keep your mobile away from the table.
Problem solve activities that your child can do once their technology time is up
Before your child starts their technology time discuss with them what they plan to do once their allotted time is up. This is critical to making the transition off technology smooth. Most parents say getting their children to come off the technology is often the most difficult thing to do. By helping children problem solve what they will do when they come off their devices you have created an easy transition to the next activity when you tell them their time is finally over.
Why not make an ‘ideas jar’ with your child. Use lollipop sticks to write down all the different things, which your child could do once their technology time is up. Place them in a jar and next time they have finished their technology time they can simply pull out a lollipop stick from the jar and get started on the next activity.
Provide a gentle countdown to their time
As with everyone, children become engrossed in their technology and lose all track of time. Have you ever been on the internet searching for something and before you know it an hour has gone!? So it’s not surprising children become frustrated when their time is up.
You can help manage screen time and reduce this frustration by providing gentle countdowns when they have ten, five and one minute left.
Model good technology use
How many times have you told your child they will have your undivided attention once you have just finished sending this one email or finishing this one thing on the computer? Is it any wonder our children tell us they are just finishing off a game and then ten minutes later they are still on their tablets?
If we want children to come off their technology when we ask then we must model this behaviour and stick to any technology rules without exception – children model what they see NOT what they are told.
Have daily ‘technology-free’ time
Set aside designated times as ‘technology free’ so you can all reconnect with each other and remind your child how much fun can be had on a bike ride, climbing trees, playing a board game, baking, etc.
The key is to make sure you have a regular time each day when you all come together for family technology-free time.
Dr Maryhan’s One Million Moments
One Million Moments is a worldwide campaign with one single mission – to reduce the number of children struggling with mental health challenges from the current 17% to 10% by 2025. We know prevention is better than cure. Children who feel connected, heard, and understood are less likely to struggle with their mental health.
Yet our lives are so busy, and it can be overwhelming for parents to know where to start. So, let’s keep it simple for all and actively seek change, one moment at a time. Seizing opportunities to connect with children, moment by moment, day by day.
These moments raise our awareness and give us a glimpse into a child’s mind, their reality, and how life events are impacting them right now.
We can positively impact children’s lives in those moments when we:
Lean – seize those moments to connect, however fleeting they may be, and really lean-in. Be fully present and quieten all distractions (including your mind’s need to remind you of your to-do list!)
Listen – tune in to everything your child is telling you, not only in their words, in their body language, and facial expressions. Give them your full attention without needing to have all the answers
Learn – what has this moment taught you about your child, their reality, their emotions, their challenges, their joy? Do you need to do anything different as a result of what you have learnt? Do you need to enlist help from anyone else?
One Million Moments aims to tackle the mental health crisis using a three-pronged approach.
Prevention, parents, schools, and companies pledge their support and actively create opportunities for moments with children. In exchange we provide free resources to help maximise those moments, creating the building blocks to mental health resilience.
Crisis support, donations made by parents, schools, and companies are donated by us to our charity partners, who are currently working with families in crisis.
Impacting 1 million lives, by asking parents, schools, and companies to share news of their pledge with others, so as a collective we can positively impact 1 million lives and reduce the incidence of mental health challenges in children.
Article by Dr Maryhan Baker