However, it’s all too easy for the screens that your child uses to suck up more and more of their time, until they aren’t doing anything else. Mobile devices themselves aren’t the enemy, but it’s important for your children to have limits and boundaries so that they also have time for unstructured play and face-to-face communication. Here are some helpful strategies for establishing the boundaries that your kids need.
Set the Rules Early
Don’t wait for screen time to become a problem before you begin laying down the law. When you give your child their first mobile device, that device should come with a talk about the rules and responsibilities that accompany it. After all, this isn’t a doll or a stuffed animal – mobile devices are expensive tools that have risks as well as benefits, so they necessarily warrant more ground rules than other types of toys.
Children are more likely to resist rules about their mobile device use if they first become used to having no limits on their screen time, which is why it makes sense to establish ground rules early. However, if you have children who are already used to having unlimited access and you’d like to set new limits, it’s not impossible. Be up front about your concerns so that your children understand why there are new rules, and make it clear that following the rules is the price of having the devices.
Set a Good Example
If your main concern is that your children are spending too much time on their screens and not enough time on other activities, you may need more than just rules to help your kids learn to use good judgment when it comes to their screens. You may need to set a better example yourself.
Do you answer your phone at the dinner table? Do you find yourself checking texts or emails while talking with your children or other family members? Keep in mind that your children are imitating the things that they see you do. Consider curbing your own use of screens, and having a discussion with your kids about limits on mobile devices that make sense for the whole family – like no screens at the dinner table or no screens after a certain time of night. That way, not only do you preserve or increase your family time, you also show your children the importance of boundaries for everyone, not just for them.
Let Apps Help
Remember that mobile devices are useful tools, even when it comes to setting boundaries on those devices. You can’t be everywhere at once, so consider using a parental control app to help establish and support the boundaries you set.
There are apps that you can set limits on how long your child can use a device, locking the device when the time is up. You can block unwanted apps, require approval for your child to download and install apps themselves, and allow your child to earn extra time or pause their device when you want them to take a break. These parental control apps can make enforcing limits easier for you and respecting those limits easier for your kids.