Parents were feeling anxious about their children’s screen time before COVID, but now this anxiety has spiked as screen time feels out of control. Before COVID, it was challenging, but possible, to limit children’s access to devices. But now, with schooling, socializing and activities all streaming online, parents are at a loss as to what to do. Why are we feeling so much anxiety over screen time to begin with? What can we do now that children’s usage has ramped up?
Studies have shown that too much screen time (and/or the wrong content) can have a negative impact on children. As a result, we have relied on trying to keep tech usage within a satisfactory range to protect our children. We are anxious because we have been looking for the magic number - the “right” amount of screen time, the “right” type of screen time - to keep our children healthy.
The concept of this “right” screen time is even more confusing during the COVID era. This is making parents even more anxious, as we feel lost and without a playbook. But, we have been looking at this the wrong way. Most screen time approaches focus solely on finding the right tech use limits. Limiting tech use is an important part of any screen time plan, but it is only one part. We have to move beyond just limits.
When we set screen time limits, we take the devices away rather than teaching our kids to do this themselves. Screen time limits do not teach our kids how to use technology wisely - how to notice the effects of tech on their mood, how to log off despite urges to continue, how to maintain a balance between online and offline lives, etc.
When you learned to drive a car, was there a plan, method, or process that ensured you weren’t going to plow into a mailbox or speed into oncoming traffic? Of course there was. No one handed you the keys and expected you to figure out how to drive safely. Someone trained you, first by slowly and methodically teaching the skill sets. Then they closely monitored you while you practiced - beginning in parking lots, then side streets, larger thoroughfares, and finally on the freeway. A driver’s license was granted upon demonstration of competency and safety.
We need to take the same approach to screen time - one that emphasizes training from a young age, and monitors the development of tech use skills. Let’s do Driver’s Ed for smartphones.
What does that mean? To start, it requires that parents shift their mindset. Begin to play around with the idea of training your child to use their devices wisely. Let’s help our kids understand why it’s so hard to turn off their screen and share with them strategies we have developed for logging off when we are tempted to stay on. Let’s teach our kids how to notice the effects of tech on their mood, and how to find the willingness to take care of themselves by keeping tech use in balance with other aspects of their lives. Let’s show our children how, by learning these concepts and strategies, tech can enhance their lives -rather than control them.
About Beyond Limits Academy
Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear road map that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.
End the constant screen time battles. Get started here.