We’re getting ready to head into summer with many kids used to spending hours online due to distance learning. This new norm that kids have gotten used to could cause a struggle with screen time management. Here are a few quick ideas that will help your family create healthy screen time rules.
I attended a recent call with Comcast of Washington about their screen time controls in their xFi app. This post is sponsored by Comcast of Washington; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
One of our biggest parenting practices with our girls has been open communication. Our kids can be taught and communicating with them about concerns and reasons for decisions can go a long way towards getting them on board.
Yes, kids won’t like it. But if you can talk about what your screen time rules will be and listen to your kids’ thoughts on the rules, that can be a positive way of handling the discussion.
Perhaps your kids have certain times they prefer to be online and if you try to force their screen time only during certain hours, that might conflict with what they prefer. Talk with your kids and try to work as a family to decide what your screen time management plan should be.
Here are some possible discussion questions:
- How many hours of screen time do you think is fair?
- What are your favorite ways to use screens?
- When would you prefer to have screen time?
- Do you agree to complete your chores or else lose your screen time privilege?
- What activities would you enjoy doing instead of screen use?
Offering Alternative Activities
The final question above leads me into this tip: provide your kids with alternative activities. Talk with them about what they’d enjoy doing instead of screens. Another fun idea is to create a summer bucket list together as a family of things you want to do together.
Are you encouraging more outdoor time? Perhaps you can buy or make some outdoor backyard games for your kids to enjoy during the summer. Or perhaps your child likes to read, you could offer to buy or borrow a new book for them each week.
While we’ve been at home the last few months I’ve bought my girls some paint by number kits as well as a felting kit for Mia. My friend’s daughters have been into baking and cooking and they’re making meals together.
And if you’re looking for some fun ideas for kids while you’re still working, try out this boredom buster activity bingo.
After your family has worked out what is a healthy and fair amount of screen time use, set up schedules and limits — with your router if possible.
For Comcast internet users, you can easily download the xFi app and create profiles for each person in the house. Then you can assign devices to each person and set up a schedule that will pause or stop internet signals.
With the xFi app you can limit certain hours, pause internet usage on-demand, or even set up overall daily limits. And each device and profile can have unique schedules, perhaps you want your kids to be able to use their school Chromebook but not their Xbox. You can also schedule a dinner time hour and have the internet completely pause for the whole family.
We’re all busy beyond just parenting. When we’re working from home or working out of the home, these technology systems can help you put limits on your kids’ internet usage and free you up from constant monitoring.
I’ll mention that another perk of the Comcast xFi app is that they have built-in security blocks as well as an added parental control setting that helps regulate what content your kids are consuming online.
Modeling Good Screen Time Management
Another thing to keep in mind when you want to control your kids’ screen usage is to watch how you’re spending your free time. While we’re adults and should be held to different rules, kids don’t always understand that differentiation.
If you spend every free moment on your phone or watching TV, your kids will learn that that is an acceptable way to spend your free time. Try to encourage your family to find other ways to relax and connect with family and friends that don’t involve screens.
This summer we’re working on our backyard and building a patio seating area. As our girls have gotten older, we’ve found that it’s fun to just hang around each other outside and talk about various things that are on our minds. We’re hopeful that this new outdoor space will help pull us all away from our indoor screen temptations.
Keep Electronics in Public Spaces
While we have two teens who have their own phones, we’ve been pretty strict about keeping most electronics in public spaces. Our girls have not been allowed to have TVs or video games in their rooms. And our main family computer is on a desk in the family room.
By keeping screens out of the bedrooms we’ve hoped that it will help differentiate bedrooms as relaxing and safe spaces. It also helps us monitor what our girls are watching and doing while on the computer or watching TV and movies.
I will mention that we finally allowed Lizzy, who turned 16, to get a Chromebook of her own and she’s allowed to use that in her room to watch Netflix. However, I’ll point back to tip #1 and say that we have had many conversations with her about healthy screen use.
For our family, we’ve embraced technology being a part of our kids’ lives. Paul and I both work online and with computers all day, and so it seemed natural to bring screens into our girls’ lives. However, by using these tips and remembering that you can teach easier that you can control, we hope that our girls will be raised to enjoy and manage screen time safely.