Use The Limits Already Built In
It starts with the limits you have already built in. Your kids likely already have some form of schedule; they go to school, they do their homework, they have dinner, have some leisure time before bed, and then off to bed they go. That’s usually the best place to start, as you’re working from already established limits. You’re likely already enforcing a policy of no screens after bedtime and using computers only for research during homework, so that gives you a place to start.
One of the most effective ways to make rules is to involve everyone in the rulemaking and explain why certain rules are the way they are. It also offers a framework for you and your family to work in to shift the rules as needed. If, for example, your kids need to bring their tablet to school for a project, leave room to allow that while making clear it can only be used for school, and there will be consequences if your leniency is abused.
Even the best kids break rules, but before they do, they should understand the stakes. Make a point of setting clear, fair punishments, so kids understand exactly what they’re getting into if they get caught.
There are going to be moments where kids ask for more screen time. They may be snowed in, they may be sick, it may be a long vacation and you’ve gotten through every other craft project and destination you’ve wanted to visit. In these situations, it’s OK to give them a little more screen time, while making clear this is a special exception, not the new normal.
Rules Should Go Beyond Time
Anybody who has been forced to turn off a game console or shut off a TV show knows that kids get very, very upset when their favorite thing is taken from them. And in some cases, kids can overreact so much, or begin misbehaving in order to get more time with a game or show, that you’re going to be forced to step in. Or, hey, sometimes it’s just for your own sanity; there’s only so many times you can hear a TV theme song without starting to root against the heroes just a little bit. So create rules for parental controls that respect your need for sanity and limit overindulgence.
Be A Role Model
Kids often learn good or bad habits from their parents, which is probably pressure enough. But it underscores the importance of good behavior on your end. Rules should apply to the family, at least between wake-up and bedtime, and if we want our kids to stay off screens, we all need to lead by example. Even if it’s not a real problem, it’s not going to kill any of us to play fewer games on our phones.
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