Parenting a child has never been a simple task. But in a society so dominated by technology, with the outside world so easily brought into our homes by the Internet and social media, digital-age parents have the toughest job by far. Rising divorce rates, a higher incidence of single-parent households, less contact with extended family — none of these issues seems to have posed as much of a challenge to parents as managing their children’s screen time.
Even though it seems as though children’s attitudes and preferences are increasingly swayed by digital media, parents remain the single-most powerful influence on their kids. But if you have a child who loves screen time more than anything else, sometimes it feels like television, social media, and video games have a greater impact on your kids than you do.
It takes determination and effort to maintain control when your child loves screen time more than anything. Here are 5 rules to make it easier.
Get outside. Get out of the house and get some fresh air and sunshine. Learn to enjoy nature with your kids so that they will always have a connection with the outdoors. Being outdoors can serve as an antidote to the demands of the digital world that nurtures the soul, clears the mind, and actually helps kids focus and learn.
Get creative. Kids born in the digital age who play video games and use technology are actually more creative than kids who only have access to traditional forms of play. Don’t rely upon digital media for creativity but allow it to happen. Technology is a great resource for finding new things to do and a handy and versatile platform for creating. Your challenge is to help your child connect what they learn through digital play to real world activities.
Get together. One of the best ways to moderate the influence of digital media is to make time for family activities. Playing board games, going on hikes, cooking, gardening, or even just reading books together (outside, even!). Whatever it is that you choose, make sure that everyone participates and understands that it’s time to put the devices down and enjoy each others’ company, because that’s just what families do.
Get back to basics. Depending on where you live, it may be more difficult to strip away the trappings of modern life, but making an effort to camp, hike, or grow your own food (even if it’s just starting a little windowsill garden) can bring your family some much-needed perspective. If you can’t literally go back to nature, visit a traditional or living history museum — or even the library — to learn about how things were done before the digital age.
Get real face time. As much as your kids rely on texting to communicate, encourage them to use Facetime, Skype, Google hangouts and other video tools when they are away from home. At home, make space for some real, live face-to-face time when media is limited to some pleasant background music. Check out Common Sense Media’s Device Free Dinner challenge for more information on why having dinner together is such an important family tradition.
Prying kids away from their devices can be really difficult, but we recommend a respectful, cooperative approach. For more on limit-setting that involves the entire family, see “Should You Hack Your Family to Get Them to the Dinner Table?” and “Three Family Resolutions That Are Totally Realistic.” To learn how to respectfully use limit-setting technologies like the Screen Time app, see “Stop Arguing About Screen Time.” You should also take a look at our recommendations for a healthy Play Diet that makes room for screen time as well as social, creative, active, and free play.
Featured image: Flickr user Brad Flickinger