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Are your kids addicted to their electronics?

From a Hamilton parent: I am troubled by how much time my kids spend on screens. They have no other hobbies. They complete homework on their laptops and spend the rest of their time on their phones or playing video games. My kids spend almost nine hours a day on these gadgets.

Response: If there is one consistent question I get asked when I do a parenting class, it is: “How do I control screen time?”

This is a difficult question. It depends on family expectations and rules, maturity level of the child and how much balance there is in the child’s life.

We want our children to have a variety of activities to enjoy. Screen time can be one of them. In some instances, it can be interactive and social because it involves playing games with other kids. The problem is that it seems to suck our kids into a vortex, and they can’t remove themselves from it.

Add to that the complexity that comes because screens are necessary to study and do homework. In the past, a parent could take away the phone or computer so that their children did not multi-task and could focus on homework. Now it is nearly impossible to decipher between screen time that is needed or optional.

Here are ideas to consider:

  • Set limits of daily screen time. How much time is up to you, but here are guidelines from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry about screen time and children.
  • Think about your children’s maturity level. Generally, younger children need more guidelines and older children should be able to handle more responsibility. That may not always be the case. I told my tween and teen children, “You either moderate your screen time or I will moderate it for you.” This helps kids create their own boundaries.
  • The devices are yours. You can turn them off or take them. Sure, they will be bored and angry with you, but eventually they will find something else to do.
  • Use the device as a reward. When your children complete their responsibilities, they can have screen time. You may want to make a chart for younger kids. This teaches children to complete their necessary work before they relax. This is a great life skill to learn.
  • Have a time each week when you all turn off your phones and do something as a family. Sledding, a movie, games…. something that involves the whole family interacting together. If you begin this when your kids are younger it will be part of the family routine. If you start this with older kids they may not like the idea or try to sabotage it. Get their ideas on what they would like to do.
  • If you are wondering what teacher expectations are regarding lessons and homework on the Chromebook, reach out. Kids are good at giving you answers that make sense but may not be the whole story.
  • Model appropriate screen time behavior. This is probably the hardest of all. We as adults need to put down our phones and screens and interact with our children. It is so easy to tell our kids to put away their phone, but can you?

For more information check out the following:
American Academy of Pediatrics – Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents
Mayo Clinic – Screen time and children: How to guide your child