We live in a screen era. When I was a little boy my dad bought a VHS cassette player – I still remember this day. I sat on the floor, glued to the screen watching Conan the Barbarian with Arnie. Later I had few Hanna Barbera tapes with Jetsons, The Flintstones, Top Cat and so on. Today our children have access to tablets, laptops, phone screens and multiple tv channels. I believe that children before the age of 3 should not have any screen time. None, zero, zilch.
But what to do later when our children will finally get their hands on some sort of screens? How to manage this and how to reasonably take the screen away, without big drama?
It used to be hard to take it away.
It was, but after trails with no screen time, fights and tantrums we decided to give them screen time and have a talkative approach to the subject. Our children can watch their screen with some Netflix, Disney plus, but we really talk to them about it. They know that screens are addictive and not healthy, but also we all watching it so it would be hypocrisy to say one thing, and do another thing.
Opinions differ. Screen time is not something that we talk honestly about. My kids got their IPads and they use it only over the weekends. They get it after school of Friday and have access to it over the whole weekend, but obviously not 24 hours a day, but sometime in the morning and in the afternoon.
At mine, they know that Daddy had TV for Netflix and for them only – I don’t own any free view or any live tv.
Give your child time and check on their involvement in the watched subject.
Sometimes we are getting caught in the action, in the drama of a movie, big scene and we would mute the whole world around just to see the ending of it. Our children are also getting very into the cartoons, glued into the action. We just can’t switch off tv in the middle of it, I would get pissed off about it, so why we want to do it to our children? Let them know that we are will be approaching them about ending of a screen time soon, make sure message is received and that we are accepting their deep involvement with the action but it’s time to get off and close this part of the day.
Talk to your child about screen time and give them time to process.
I was talking to my daughter and our son – even that he’s autistic and got developmental delay we want him to understand that daddy is using tv, laptops, phone to watch things but overdoing it is a bad thing. When Maks is getting frustrated with endings, we are using a timer to finish screen time. We’re setting the timer for 10 minutes and we let him start the countdown. He’s pressing the start button.
I will also tell him when are 5 minutes to go and 2 minutes to go so he’s not surprised and not fully lost in his screen. It seems to work pretty well. This allows him to be kind of in control and he understands what will happen soon.
Use different things to measure screen time.
Sometimes our children not really get an understanding of the concept of time. Sometimes is better to say – You can watch two episodes or after this episode, I would like you to switch the telly off. This will reduce the stress level and will avoid surprising them. I would recommend agreeing to a number of episodes before our child will get sink into the screen. Sometimes we use a sand timer so this will allow our son to see for himself and be in charge of the timer. He’s able to turn it and this method allows him to understand it, as autism is like a different operating system.
Watch movies together.
Sometimes we organise cinema evenings – we are dimming the lights, making popcorn, switching on some family movie and getting a warm blanket on our sofa-bed. We are all sitting together and enjoying screen time. Why not? We choose something which we all love to watch- some classic Disney movie and it’s absolutely a pleasure to be in this together,
Enter the children’s world and check for the emotional state.
We all got different moods, different things might trigger us. The same with children. Parents should treat their children as partners, in life, in conversation. We cannot just barge in and switch off the telly or grab a tablet. It would intensify our emotional state and it would not end up good. Let’s be aware of children’s emotions and work on our approach to it. You wouldn’t do it to your wife – just walked into the room and switch off the telly when wanting to talk. You would start a conversation and asked if you can have a few minutes of her time, why not to ask your child?
With time we will see that our children understand screen time and also they will be able to see that we as parents might have a different taste of movies and screen time. I loved to watched Star Wars with my son, he loves Danger Mouse – the old one. My daughter got more taste for KC Undercover and Barbie. Both understand why is not too good to overdo screen time and why they can’t have it all the time. It got to the point that they are not really into screen 24/7, a few minutes in the morning and maybe in the afternoon. Where before it was a struggle to put the tablets away. Work on this relationship – be aware of it.
Observe your child, sometimes one hour is too much, sometimes 20 minutes making our child overstimulated. Each day might be different, each movie might have a different effect. It’s all depending on night’s sleep, emotional state, or other variables. Just observe your child and adjust screen time.
Read more about parenting qualities here.