For many families, screen time is not a big deal in their home. Parents don’t need to manage or monitor the amount of time their kids spend online. The kids in the home are not holed up in their rooms staring at a screen for hours on end or answering texts at the family dinner table. They are not losing sleep because they are playing video games all night or hooked on the newest social media app. And that is great.
Unfortunately, screens are an issue for many families. And we don’t mean an annoyance. Kids are becoming screen-obsessed at early ages for many reasons. One of them is just the sheer abundance of screens in the average home. No matter the reasons, we need to find ways to deal with the issue because it’s not simply going to go away on it’s own.
NPR recently came up with 5 Strategies for Coping with Screen-Obsessed Kids and Project B3 thinks it might be really helpful for some of our readers:
1. Pay attention to your children’s emotional relationship with screens, not just how much time they are spending with them.
Issues such as preoccupation, i.e. “Screens are all my child seems to think about” and deception “My child sneaks using screens” are issues that need to be taken seriously.
2. Don’t just make technology rules based on time.
Parental controls and posted schedules can be useful, but they don’t work without getting buy-in from your kids. That takes talking — and listening.
3. Do guard bedtimes and mealtimes.
Small screens near bedtime interfere with sleep, and eating while watching can contribute to obesity. Put devices away during meals and take them away at night.
4. Don’t expect taking away the phone to solve all your family’s problems.
Researchers say the relationship between mental health, problem behaviors and media use is complex and multi-dimensional. Teens use media to connect with their friends, self-soothe and even promote wellness. If you try to work with them to limit media use, you must also make sure that they have other ways to meet those needs.
5. Mentor your kids; don’t just monitor them.
Kids’ media preferences are part of who they are, so if we want to get to know our kids better, we can’t just condemn their media use, we have to try to understand it, too. It’s important that parents understand what kids are experiencing online, whether it’s violence, porn or cyberbullying, so you can talk to them about it, share your own values and offer support if it’s needed.