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Do you struggle with managing screen time as much as I do?
I don’t just mean managing my kids time spent staring at a screen, but my own too. There is just so much to do and see on televisions, computers, and phones that it can be hard to put them down and turn them off.
We have had rules in place for Hannah and Ben in regards to screen time for years, but as they get older I wondered if these limits were still beneficial.
They are always complaining that their friends get to watch tv on school nights and can play video games anytime they want. I always respond with, “They have different parents so they have different rules,” but I was starting to wonder if I was being unnecessarily strict.
I was pondering these rules when I saw that my community coalition was hosting a showing of Screenagers at my local theater. This sounded like exactly what I needed.
Screenagers: Growing Up In the Digital Age
Screenagers: Growing Up In the Digital Age follows as Delaney Ruston, a pediatrician, researches the effects of screen time on growing brains and uses that information to set rules for her own children. Multiple families are interviewed during the movie, showing how their families manage screen time, and whether it is working.
This movie did a fantastic job explaining the hazards of screen time while also mentioning that growing up with no exposure to screens can be harmful as well.
Research suggests that a balanced approach is likely best.
They discovered that excessive screen time rewires young brains. It sets the excitement threshold higher, meaning it takes more excitement for the brain to notice a stimuli. On the plus side this extra excitement helped the mice stay calm in stressful situations.
Like just about everything in life, what works for one person doesn’t for another. It is important to notice how screen time effects your family and adjust as needed.
One of the recurring themes in Screenagers was to keep an open dialogue. Talk to your children about what they are seeing and experiencing online. How are the rules working for them? What would they change and why? It is quite possible that they have a justified reason for wanting to text their friends before school.
The child/teen landscape is so different from when we were young and we can’t pretend that this new technology hasn’t changed the experience. All we can do is stay involved with our children and help them navigate this new world the best we can.
For now our family screen time rules are remaining the same:
- No screen time on school days (except for online lessons of course).
- Only 1 hour a day of screen time Monday – Friday during school breaks such as spring break and summer.
- Unlimited time on weekends.
It is also important to review internet safety before allowing children to spend time online. Things that seem like common sense to us as adults, may not seem like common sense to children. They are very trusting and it is our job to protect them.
Our online rules are:
- Do not give out personal information such as your real name, birthday, address, email address, telephone number, parents’ work information, or the name or location of our co-op.
- Tell mom and dad right away if you come across anything that makes you uncomfortable. Listen to your gut.
- Never agree to get together with anyone you “meet” online.
- Do not give out your passwords to anyone (even best friends) other than Mom and Dad.
- Check with a parent before downloading or installing software or apps or doing anything that could possibly hurt our devices or jeopardize our family’s privacy. (Downloads don’t always look like downloads. We found out the hard way that we needed to specify to not click on links.)
- Do not play with people who say mean things, bully other people, or use bad language.
These rules can be the starting point for a screen time contract. A contract is especially useful for teenagers because they can help create it and have their voice and ideas heard.
It opens the door for dialogue about what you hope they gain from screen time while giving them a time to express their own desires. Letting them have a say in creating these rules will likely go a long way in preventing them from spinning out of control once they leave the house.
Did you know there are now screen time addiction recovery centers?
That is a sobering thought. We know from the research that screen time such as video games increases the excitement threshold in the brain. Some people can become so addicted to that level of excitement that they need residential treatment to break that addiction.
I don’t know about you, but I need screen time limits as much as my children. To enforce limits for myself I installed the Stay Focusd app on my chrome browser. I just listed the websites that I want to limit and set a daily time limit.
It has really boosted my productivity because I follow fewer internet rabbit holes.
Facebook makes is so easy to feel like we are socializing and engaging with our community without ever leaving our house. That is fantastic for people who are truly homebound, but that is a small portion of the population.
I want to model good habits for my children in as many ways as possible and that includes limiting my time online. The Holderness Family (love them) video about screen time sums it up.
When we choose to look at our screens, we are missing what is going on around us. We are missing out on the opportunity to engage with our children. If we don’t engage with them when they are young, will they choose to engage with us when they leave the house?
Screen time is a complex subject with no one size fits all approach. Managing screen time requires monitoring your family and constantly weighing the pros and cons. I highly recommend seeing Screenagers.
To watch the Screenagers trailer click here.
To find a showing of Screenagers near you click here.
No showings near you? You can host one! Click here to get pricing information. This would be perfect for a community or PTA event.