It’s a full time job to monitor your child’s screen time, let alone your own.
When they’re little, who doesn’t love a good zone-out time when the house is blissfully — though briefly — quiet as the sound of a favorite TV show plays in the background?
But as they get older, there’s a new twist to the whole screen time internal battle.
A 5-year-old might not notice you just told them to get off their iPad while your own nose is buried in a screen, but a 10-year-old sure will. And they’re not afraid to call you out on it.
At that age, electronics time is usually fun for them, and they assume it’s the same for us. If we’re on our phone, we must be playing Fortnite or some other awesome game they were just banned from for the day.
They don’t realize we spend hours on our phone so their life can go smoothly. We're managing their schedules, setting up checkups, googling parenting concerns and trying to be the best we can be. Oh, and add in there the demands our day job puts on us to be constantly available via email or text.
Of course, we’re only human. There are also those times when we pick up our phone to do something very responsible and find ourselves sucked into Facebook. Twenty minutes later we're asking ourselves, “Wait a minute. Why’d I get on here again?”
So how do we model that balance of screen time for our kids while still taking care of every soccer practice and guitar lesson reschedule? For me, it’s been about setting limits for myself at certain times throughout my day. Here are some I’ve tried and had good luck with.
1. Meals. Unless there is a major and pressing event going on that I need to be near my phone for, I set my phone aside when we eat meals. I don't just set it next to me either; I put it physically away from me and face down on silent. It’s kind of embarrassing — although I’m sure relatable — how tempting it can be to check my phone every time I hear it go off. Setting it away from me removes that urge to check it.
2. School pick up. I make it a priority to not be on my phone when I pick up the kids from school. The second they climb in the car, they have my undivided attention until after snack time. Of course, then I have to whip my phone back out to use the calculator to check sixth grade math homework. Those problems are tough!
3. Special family time. Our family enjoys playing cards, board games and reading together. We try to do at least one of these together every single day when possible. This is another time of my day where I physically set my phone away from me.
The older our kids get, the better they will be at managing their own screen time and understanding how to use their electronics as a tool to help them rather than control them. But if we can make these attempts to model good electronic stewardship when it comes to family time, we will start to see them naturally doing the same.