Recently, I’ve had several heated tele-family therapy sessions about kids and their excessive use of electrics.
Parents complain that screen time has crept up to ridiculous levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One mom shared that she had to “wrestle” her son’s phone from him because he refused to relinquish it. She added, “My son used to draw, build things, smile at us; now he only wants to watch videos on his phone.”
During a several tele-counseling sessions, I have had teens storm out of their living rooms during these discussions. These are stressful times. I get it.
Screen Time Guidelines: My Top 3 Suggestions for Bringing Balance Back into Your Home
Here’s are my top 3 suggestions for how to help kids and parents negotiate electronics.
#1 Categorize Screen Time
I love the way this blogger shared in her screen time post grouped screen-related activities into two categories: active and passive. For example, scrolling through pictures and playing repetitive games are considered passive activities, whereas exercise videos and educational games are considered active activities.
The process of categorizing screen-related activities can help families problem-solve in a more meaningful way based on their values. Instead of threatening, “You’re off your phone for a month!”, the parent and teen can categorize the teen’s media-related activities and develop a better plan. I always encourage parents and teens to try a new plan out for about a week. Then, tweak the plan afterwards, as needed. If you and your teen can’t see eye-to-eye and need more support, consider working virtually with child psychologist like me 🙂 I’d be happy to help.
#2 Get Knowledgeable About The Topic
As a parent, I always feel better when I set limits if I’ve done my own homework. Just recently, when my teenager daughter was texting during our family movie, I asked for her phone. She wasn’t thrilled, but I’d warned her that this day was coming, and this was it. She needed the limit.
Then, I read up on the topic. In this article, entitled How to Limit Your Kid’s Screen Time, the author gives helpful tips for reducing electronics usage in kids, like creating electronic-free zones in the house, monitoring your own usage, and using digital controls on your kids’ devices, such as digital detox.
In another good article from Today’s Parent, entitled, 9 Signs of Screen Addiction in Kids, the author lists a number of red flags to watch for that suggest your kid might have a screen addiction, such as a child’s loss of interest in other activities. This article was helpful for me because I often feel guilty after I “lay down the law” with my own kids. I hate seeing their sad faces 🙁 But the worst part is that my guilt often impairs my judgment, which leads me to Tip #3.
#3 Follow Your Gut, Not Your Guilt
Parents often share that they know their kids are overusing electronics, but they feel guilty taking their electronics away, especially during a pandemic. They ask, “If they can’t see their friends in person, is it fair to limit their phone use?”
The simple answer is YES. It’s your job.
Many children who fixate on screens are also dealing with other challenges, like depression, ADHD, anxiety, learning disabilities, school failure, or oppositional defiant disorder. Guess what? That’s exactly what the research suggests. In this study by the National Institute of Health entitled, Associations between Screen Time and Lower Psychological Well-Being among Children and Adolescents, researchers found that children and adolescents who spent more time using “screen media” had clinically significant more challenges regulating their emotions, completing tasks, and making friends than other groups. The heavy screen-users were less curious, too.
This is why it’s so important for us as parents to follow our guts, not our guilt.
Here’s are a few final suggestions for implementing guidelines with your child:
- Tell your child that you hope to find a compromise about their electronic usage, but that you are the parent, which means you will have the final say.
- Explain that your job as a parent is to help them develop healthy habits and balance, COVID-19 or not. Therefore, you are failing at your job and therefore failing them if you let them spend hours upon hours in front of a screen.
- Have a plan in place for how you and your child can restructure their time (e.g., We’re going to do something together for 30 minutes a day. We can either go on a bike ride, take a walk, or put a puzzle together). But be ready for complaints and refusals. If you stay strong and enlist the help of others, you’ll see progress.
Wrapping It Up
Also, if you are feeling stressed out, worried or overwhelmed, reach out for support! I have a Facebook parent support group and would love for you to join us:) Always remember….You are not alone.
If you are interested in working with me in particular, check out the services I offer on my website: https://kqadhdandu.com.
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