Today’s Family: Tech time limits

Time change and cooler weather are upon us. As the nights grow longer and the temps get lower, we tend to want to snuggle up with …our technology! So what’s a parent to do?

According to a 2014 article by Nick Bilton in theNew York Times, Apples’ Steve Jobs was a low tech parent and there are a number of other technology chief executives and venture capitalists who strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, allocating time limits on weekends, not allowing screen time in anyone’s bedroom, and some who don’t even allow their children to have their own devices. Oh my!

As passionate as I am about this subject, I must admit I stunk at enforcing screen time limits. Both of my highly intelligent and strong-willed children denied my pleas over and over with excuses like, “We need it for school, our teachers put assignments online and on Facebook, or I have a text study group I need to be on.”

It’s still worth it to keep trying despite the rejection. See if any of these tips inspire you:

Set the Example. How do children learn the things they do? They model their parents when they are younger and their peers as they get older. If they see you reading a book, they are more likely to read. And if they see you watching television, so will they.

Be the Parent. It is your job to encourage healthy behaviors and limit unhealthy ones – sometimes this means making unpopular decisions.

Set Limited Viewing Times. If you are not going to turn off the television completely, choose the appropriate television viewing windows for your kids. It is much easier to limit their viewing habit if they understand that they can only watch one show in the morning and one show after school (as an example).

Encourage Other Activities. And provide the necessary resources. It’s so easy to give in to our children’s demands to use their devices but if you offer an alternative, they have more choices.

Play with Your Kids. Get down on the floor with your kids. I wish I had those moments back when my kids asked me to play Barbie or pet shop. Anytime spent with your child in make-believe play is priceless and stimulates their imagination.

Be Involved in Their Lives. For many of us, let’s face it. It is sometimes just easier to turn on the television. Observe what your children are up to, listen, ask questions and be there…really there.

Cut your Cable/Remove Your Television Completely. It’s much easier to set limits when there is no access. Reduce your cable plan down to a basic viewing package or even be so bold as to remove all tv’s from your home, at minimum your bedrooms. Try a little experiment of no TV for a week and watch what happens.

Observe Your Child’s Behavioral Changes. Technology use has an immediate impact on your child’s behavior. Irritability, aggression, selfishness and impatience are all behavioral changes to note and signs a child has had too much screen time.

Value Family Meals and Car Rides. About two-thirds of young people say the TV is usually on in their household during mealtimes the time when real connection and affinity can take place. The car is another easy place to use TV or screens to occupy our children and keep them quiet during the ride but this is a time when you can be actually engaging in real communication with a captive audience. These times are invaluable.

Limiting your child’s screen time may seem like an impossible chore or it may seem like a battle that is too difficult to fight but it is worth fighting.

Implementing just a few steps right away will help you implement the others. The more you enforce limits the easier it will get and the more compelled you are to continue actually enjoying the freedom and ease that happens as a result

Praise children when they make good decisions on their own about their viewing time. Enlist them to help you create policies that everyone can live with. The bottom line is more about what screen time has replaced and as a result what are our children missing out on and just as important what are we missing out on with our children.

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