This is a post talking about screen time limits and what works for us as a family. As always, what works for us, doesn’t always work or apply to someone else, and as I always say, if it works for you and your family that is best, so if you want to follow our advice and parenting style, feel free but if it doesn’t sit well with you then please feel free to pass and do what does.
With the arrival of the long summer holidays, I often sigh with relief at the break in our usually hectic pace of life. Then I realize that I have 6-7 weeks of my children at home with me, and face the likelihood that there will be days when we are bored at home because although it might be summer, the UK weather doesn’t play ball…
I try to be creative and find things for my children to do, to keep them busy, although I also operate on the basis that I am not 24/7 playtime entertainer for my children and they will sometimes be bored and that is ok but sometimes screen time, and how we manage that comes into play. I firmly believe that the tv, tablet devices, and even phones are great tools for parents and children, for educational and entertainment purposes but that their use needs to be managed carefully, particularly for young children, but children of any age (and also adults, to be honest, too)
Screen time is not a right and not something we want to entirely rely on. I also don’t believe that my children can self regulate their screen time use, something I know other parents feel differently on, and I also don’t think that unlimited screen time is healthy for anyone, be they, adult or child. There is nothing wrong with a day in your pj’s watching movies on the sofa, but there is more to life than staring at a screen. We also use the privilege of having screen time, to negotiate other life issues.
So we have rules around here about screen time, and we have screen time limits. Sometimes we bend them, if say, for example, we are ill, and a bit of extra tv or screen time helps to keep people occupied whilst recovering, but we tend to try and stick to the rules. Screen time for us means access to a tv, a computer for watching or playing games, or a tablet or phone.
Those rules are:
Screen time on weekdays does not happen first thing in the morning. We don’t watch tv over breakfast and screen time is not the first thing that happens. I find that if we start with screen time, then pulling either child away to get the day started is harder.
During a normal homeschool or school day the policy is that screen time for leisure is not given unless all tasks and school work are done. Also chores and jobs around the house need to be done.
Reading before screens. This is a rule. One child loves reading so I don’t have to fight this, the other is not as keen so asking them to read, for a small chunk of time, helps.
Screen time limits are strict. If I allocate an hour, then that’s what happens. Sometimes I will bend that rule, but I try to be consistent.
The children’s screen time is controlled by the adult devices so they cannot simply pick up and watch. We use parental controls and can see what they are watching or playing, how much, what sites and apps, and how long for. This will remain in place for a long time. They have to ask for certain app use and we allocate daily screen time limits.
Weekends are different and we allow more screen time, usually, so the adults can have a lie-in or a nap undisturbed (no more tmi details, this is a family-friendly blog after all 😉 ) and I remember as a child one of the great pleasures of the weekend was watching tv on a weekend morning in peace with no adults annoying me, so we let the children have that time.
No screens in rooms overnight. Our children don’t and won’t have a tv in their rooms and we remove phones and devices. This article has some interesting perspectives and we also don’t feel that unsupervised access to screens for children is healthy, overnight. We also turn wifi off and limit screen time during sleepovers at our home (although we do not remove devices from visiting children, but we do discuss the use of them with their parents, and what our rules are around screen time, what will be watched and accessed etc)
When we travel and we are in the car for a long time, or on a plane, or train, all bets are off.
We also do allow our children to use their devices when we are out if needed. Sometimes that is frowned upon, but if my son playing a game on his iPad whilst waiting for a meal to arrive that might be taking a while, keeps him happy and quiet, and he’s wearing headphones and not disturbing others, it’s no worse than when I was allowed to read a book waiting for a meal to arrive.
My kids occasionally complain “x’s mum lets them have their phone in their room all night” or “j’s allowed to use his iPad whenever he wants” but they are used to me replying back “screen time is a privilege and not a right” and mostly we make it work. Maybe we are tough and strict about it, but I think it’s our job to manage it.
Strict or sensible? What do you think? What works for you in your home with your children?