Here we go again. Another school year is underway, and that means homework and after-school activities. But when homework is done and there aren’t any after-school activities, a lot of parents wonder, “Is it okay to give my child the iPad or allow them to watch TV?”
Establishing Rules for Kids’ Screen Time
I’ve read the recommendations by age for how long a child should use electronics, so I came up with rules around those. During the summer, of course, the rules are a little different because there’s no school or homework. But in general, here are the rules we try to follow before allowing screen time.
Cover the Basics Before Screen Time in the Morning
- Have you made your bed?
- Have you brushed your teeth?
- Have you brushed your hair?
- Have you gotten dressed?
- Have you had breakfast?
Make Sure All Work Is Done After School
- Have you finished your homework?
- Have you cleaned your room?
- Have you helped Mom or Dad with chores?
- Have you walked the dog?
Tackle One Productive Activity First
- Have you spent 20 minutes reading, writing, or coloring?
- Have you cleaned up one room?
- Have you played outside for 20 minutes?
- Have you made or built something creative?
If all the rules are followed, then my children are allowed to use electronics for an hour.
Reflecting on Your Screen Time as a Parent
After a long day of learning, I understand why my children want to sit and stare at a screen. Sometimes after a long day, I also want mindless screen time.
I’m the most influential person in my children’s lives. They learn everything from me. How you treat yourself is how your kids will treat themselves. So how they use screens mimic how I use screens. Does that mean I need to give up my screen, or does this follow the “Do as I say, not as I do” idea?
I wanted to see the ways I was using my phone, so I began tracking how and why I reached for the screen. Smartphones are a great tool for many things, but they can also be a time warp. You can get sucked into the many things associated with the phone. I use my phone for everything: Netflix, social media, taking pictures, texting and talking, getting directions, figuring out recipes, etc. Sometimes, my kids see me using my phone as a tool; other times, they see me using it as a distraction.
I realized that, some of the times I look at my phone, I don’t need to. Like when I’m reading a book or watching TV. Once I understood how I use screens, I started to ensure my children also understood. After all, they have no way of knowing that I’m looking up how many cups are in a quart while I’m cooking. For all they know, I’m playing a game and not paying attention to them or anything else.
I talked them through how, why, and when I use my screen. I made sure they understood that I’m using it as a tool and encouraged them to view smartphones that way. Then, for non-essential use, we follow the rules. These rules apply to everybody in the family, and everybody agrees to hold each other accountable.
We established last year that we would have different activities every night: game night, movie night, story night, etc. I realized that if I make it easy to put the screens down, my kids don’t ask for them as much. Getting my kids involved helped us become more of a family. So my advice is to put the screens down and enjoy the time you have…because when they’re teenagers they won’t want anything to do with you!
Babies & Toddlers
In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!