Managing Screen Time

New Rules for Screen Time

Now that school time is screen time, social time is screen time, and down time is screen time, how in the world do we regulate it?

Experts recommend re-designing your screen time rules – and relaxing them.  

To redesign your rules, take some time to figure out what your concerns really are.  “It’s too much” or “the pediatrician said…” won’t cut it during this time.  But you can create new rules that meet your kids’ needs, and make sure that your child:

  • Stays emotionally regulated
  • Gets some outside time every day
  • Is using technology to connect, not isolate
  • Participates in family time every day
  • …and anything else you feel is really important for your child’s wellbeing.

If you stick to those underlying concerns, you will find that different kids can handle different amounts and different types of screen time better than others.

With this in mind, here’s a brief description of what redesigning the rules might look like. 

  1. During a neutral time (when everyone is calm), ask your child about their screen time needs or concerns, and listen to why these are important to them.  Make a list! 
  2. Then (and only then) share your concerns, perhaps the ones listed above. 
  3. Together, see if you can come up with some new screen time rules that address both their concerns and yours.  This may look like a lot more screen time for right now, if your concerns are met in other ways.

For example, if your child expresses concerns about not enough time to socialize with friends but you’re concerned about exercise, it may look like more screen time for social activities, as long as it’s balanced by outside play, or agreeing to exercise with friends online.

Don’t Decrease Screen Time.  Increase In-Person Time.

Watch for signs of isolation or big feelings that are hard to regulate.  These may be a sign that it’s too much for that particular child.  In these situations, it may be most helpful to focus on ways to increase in-person connection and physical world activities – time together, art projects, family games – rather than focusing on decreasing screens themselves.  Kids are likely trying to fill a need and solve a problem.  They will need support finding a different solution first, before they can release the thing that’s “working” for them now.   

Dr. Greene just posted a podcast/show that addresses some of these issues using Collaborative Proactive Solutions.

Tech Generation, by Mike Brooks, is an excellent, scientifically-based resource for learning to have healthy conversations around technology with children, and how to set appropriate limits whether your child is doing “ok” or is totally off the rails.  And guess what, they use a lot of the key concepts of Collaborative Proactive Solutions to do so!

Move it! Move it!

If your kids are on screens a lot, make sure they are moving A LOT.  Go outside and in nature as much as possible, but for those rainy days or times when outside is not possible, here are some fun ideas:

  • Clown PE: Kaluza and Coventry perform all over the Bay Area.  You may have seen them at your school, the Athletic Playground, or your local library.  They are leading weekly PE classes, posted on Youtube and Facebook.
  • Your school may already be using this, so it is likely familiar to kids!
  • Family exercise: for a more formal workout that is parent and kid friendly, try this.
  • And don’t forget those brain breaks!

I hope this has been helpful!  Let me know what else you need.

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