Tag Archives: screen time

Balancing Screen Time During the Summer

Parenting comes with many challenges – potty training, convincing your child broccoli isn’t poison, and mastering the fine art of the diorama. But by far, one of the most significant challenges parents face is balancing screen time, particularly over the summer break.

We shouldn’t be too critical of our children, after all, how many of us take any chance we get to binge a season of our favorite shows on Netflix or constantly check our social media and email, and had Snapchat and YouTube been around when we were kids, we’d behave much the same way.

Too much of a good thing makes it no longer a good thing, so how do we balance screen time with time in the real world?

Be A Role Model

It’s cliché, but actions do speak louder than words, so if you want your child to spend less time staring at a screen set the example by putting down your phone and setting boundaries like a Device-Free Dinner.

Plan Family Activities

Summer means ample opportunities to get outside and play. Let your imagination run wild – go hiking, swimming, build a tree house or camp in the backyard. If heat and bugs aren’t your thing, try putt-putt, movies, or plan a family game night.

Set Device Free Zones

Just like the idea of a Device-Free Dinner, set rooms or times when screens are off limits. For example, no screens at the table, in the bathroom, or the car unless it’s a road trip.

Set a Timer

Let’s face it, going cold turkey is never going to last and your crew will likely mutiny, so a much better plan is to set time limits. You’ll know what works for your family, but set boundaries like no screens before breakfast or after eight pm, or cap their total amount for the day or the week. There are plenty of great apps for Android and iPhone to take the guesswork and prevarication out of the equation.

 Set Boundaries

At the very least, make a rule of one screen at a time. If it’s movie night, no phones or tablets. That may be a harder one for parents than for kids if you’re sitting through Secret Life of Pets for the fourth time, but it’s important to lead by example.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Block Porn on Your Child’s Devices

Most statistics on pornography use state the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is just 11 years old. Bitdefender, a company that specializes in security technology, reports that children under the age of 10 now account for 22% of online porn consumption under 18 -years old. Perhaps even more disturbing is their discovery that the sites most visited by children under 10 include porn mega sites like Pornhub. In fact, the under 10 age group now accounts for one in 10 visitors to porn video sites. Furthermore, Google Analytics reports that pornography searches increase by 4,700% when children are out of school.

If you think your child has seen online pornography, these suggestions on how to have and start an age-appropriate conversation can help.

Regardless parents, we want to do everything we can to shield our children from these explicit images and distorted depictions of sexuality. To protect young eyes from seeing things they ought not to see, it takes more than being careful about what you watch when they’re around. But it takes more than conversations and warnings – children are naturally curious, so it’s important to combine conversations with technology tools to limit adult content so that you control what impressions your children have about love, sexuality, and relationships.

Here are ways to block porn as much as is possible.

Turn on Google SafeSearch on all your devices – phones, tablets and computers. When enabled, SafeSearch helps to block explicit images, videos, and websites from all Google Search results. Of course, you’ll need to ensure that Google is the default search engine. The downside that your child likely knows how to disable SafeSearch in Chrome’s settings, so you’ll need to check all devices from time to time to make sure it hasn’t been turned off.

If you have Apple devices, use Screen Time which is built into the device’s operating system. You have two options: put restrictions on your kid’s devices and then lock them with a password known only to you so they can’t change it back; or control their device remotely through Apple’s Family Sharing feature.

You can also ask your internet service provider what – if any – parental controls, content filters, or other screen-time-management features they offer. For example, Verizon’s Smart Family offers parental controls for a set monthly fee.

PC Magazine has a comprehensive list of the best The Best Parental Control Software for 2019, with some excellent choices for as little as $14.99. You can also set up controls through your router, and use tools like Disney’s Circle that offers mobile monitoring of your child’s phone through an app you download to the phone. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

2019 Family Media Goals

Depending on your child’s school district, your little ones are likely back to school or gearing up to go back, and that means cracking down on screen time now that your family is getting back into its routine.

It also means that there’s no better time to examine your family’s media guidelines and see where you need to tighten – or lighten – up. There are no hard and fast rules and no one-size-fits-all guidelines for media use. Every family is unique and based on lifestyle and personality, what works for you may not work for your neighbor. But, having a few ground rules in place gives you a starting point, and by including your kids in the conversation, you can ensure you’re raising responsible digital citizens who understand the importance of a healthy balance of online and real-world experiences.

Start by being interested in what they’re interested in. Are they as obsessed with Minecraft as my nephew Tristan? Instead of allowing your eyes to glaze over and planning out your next vacation when they start to regale you with their latest achievement, be intentional in listening to what they have to say – they’re telling you because your opinion matters to them. Shared interests spark bigger conversations.  By sharing their online activity with you, they’re inviting you to be part of their world, an opportunity you’d be wise to take advantage of while they’re young. Besides, if they’re venturing on to sites or exploring YouTube territory you’re not happy with, your opinion and reasons for limiting or banning such content will carry weight if you can speak knowledgeably about the topic.

One of the most critical skills we can teach our children as they mature is self-control. Nowhere is this more tested than when it comes to screen time. Every online activity from social media games, apps, and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are specifically designed to keep you engaged. Why do you think they all have an “Up next” pop up as your current video is ending? It’s an endless loop of entertainment, and children simply don’t have the maturity level to be able to say no. Frankly, most adults don’t either, but that’s a story for another day.

To help them get there, use apps like iOS12’s Screen Time or Android Pie’s (available on Pixel devices; rolling out to other users in the coming weeks) Digital Wellbeing to monitor online activity. There are several great apps available for both iOS and Android devices. It’s also a good idea to make sure parental controls are in place, and again, there are several user-friendly options available.

This is also the perfect time to talk about online privacy and safety. If we learned anything from 2018, it’s that our data is at risk. Talk to your kids about being careful what they share online, then go one step further by cleaning up your digital footprint. Not only is your information at risk, many companies skirt the Children’s Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) and actively monitor and collect information on your child’s online activity in order to target them with ads.

Most importantly, lead by example. If you’re already doing a “device-free dinner,” go a step further. We used to play “Best Thing/Worst Thing” with our kids at dinner. It’s as simple as sharing the best part and the worst part of your day. Or, play another simple game like “Two Truths and a Lie” or “Never Have I Ever.” Conversation sans emojis is becoming a lost art. Help your kids stay in the game.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

Tips for Avoiding Screen Time Fights

By Bonnie Harris, Connective Parenting

Feeling powerless in the face of the digital landscape of your home? Think you need to don your police uniform? The technological tsunami has most parents afraid and holding their children in lock down. But anger and resistance from a parent who has brought digital access into the home is illogical to the child. Actually, simple logic will help.

Fighting over screen time is symptomatic of underlying issues just like any other inappropriate behavior. It signals a problem or miscommunication in the relationship. If you are seen as a controlling parent, and you alone determine the limits on screen time, your children will naturally try to grab every minute they can regardless of how angry you get. As with everything else, if you have a respectful, trusting, open, non-punitive, non-threatening relationship with your kids, you will be able to agree on schedules. It comes down to relationship. A good relationship also means that your children enjoy spending time with you as well as technology.

When any new device enters your home, accompany it with its own set of rules and instructions like anything else you want your children to respect. This is your opportunity for problem-solving and negotiation among family members. Too often families don’t make the effort but instead direct children what not to do after the unwanted behavior happens. When withdrawal of screen/phone privileges becomes the consequence, any hope of coming to agreement is lost. Cooperation does not happen when children fear that what they want most will be taken from them.

Screens are potentially damaging to our children’s brains if not limited. So take the responsibility that is yours and keep young children away from screens altogether, model responsible use yourself, and when devices are introduced, negotiate limits with your child right from the start.

Don’t let screens intimidate you. You are still the parent. It is up to you to provide the environment you want for your children, to model the people you want them to become, to introduce nature and beauty, to stop your busy lives and go out to explore what’s off the grid. It is unrealistic to expect your child to turn off these highly entertaining devices and decide to go outside, especially when you stay in leading your workaholic life or tied to your own devices.

There is not one way to set limits on screen time as it depends on your kids. You can allow a responsible, engaged child more leeway to self-monitor than one who finds his only solace on a screen.

Discuss the how, when, and where conditions around a new phone, device or game. It’s more difficult once problems arise but basically the same:

  • Schedule a time to make decisions. Not on the fly. Scheduling time highlights the importance.
  • If you have absolutes, state them right away, own them as yours. “It is important to me that there is no screen time when there is outstanding homework or chores. Does anyone have any problem with that?”
  • Discuss time. “What do you think is a reasonable amount of time for…?” State what you think and negotiate until you agree.
  • Discuss when and what days. Begin with open discussion, “What makes sense to you?”
  • Discuss gray areas: weekday use, mornings, weekends, etc. If your child is being resistant or bored by this, try, “Here’s what I think should happen. Do you agree? Remember we are staying on this until we agree. This is not about me telling you what to do.”
  • Discuss what’s off limits, i.e. restaurants, short car rides, the dinner table.
  • Write down all agreements. It may or may not be necessary to all sign a contract.
  • Post the agreements until there are no longer questions/your child can self-regulate.
  • Reevaluate after a one-week experiment to access how the agreements are working.
  • Expect reminders and allow a few minutes leeway for agreed on times.

If resistance is high, avoid fighting and wait for the reevaluation. Explain then that you have noticed the agreed on time limit was too hard for your child to follow and a new agreement seems necessary. Your point of view must be that the resistance indicates a problem your child is having rather than your child being the problem. Keep reevaluating until it works.

So many children, especially ones who feel incompetent in school, have finally found success online. When parents criticize that success and threaten to take it away, the cyberworld looks like a far happier place to be. When the home and school environment meets children’s needs, the Internet becomes merely an adjunct entertainment.

Bonnie-Harris-75Bonnie Harris, MS Ed, director of Connective Parenting, has been a child behavior and parenting specialist for twenty-five years. Based on her highly acclaimed books, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live, Bonnie counsels parents via phone and skype, teaches parenting workshops, leads professional trainings and speaks internationally. The mother of two grown children, she lives in New Hampshire where she founded The Parent Guidance Center. To learn more, visit her website at www.bonnieharris.com.

Managing Screen Time: What’s the Right Approach?

By Tracey Dowdy

I recently read an article about Steve Jobs and was surprised to learn he was a “low tech” parent. Does that surprise you? It surprised me. I thought his house would be like that Disney movie Smart House, where the walls are projection screens. Plus, since it’s Steve Jobs’ house, all the floors would be tiled in early generation iPads and MacBooks.

Instead, Jobs limited the amount of screen time his kids were allowed to have. According to Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things. No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”

After a little research, I found that to be true for a lot of parents who work in the tech industry. Screen time during the week is limited and usually involves homework, and though weekends are more unstructured, use is still managed and monitored.

Is screen time really that big a deal? I’m not proud of it, but I’m pretty sure I wept tears of joy when my toddlers finally sat still in front of Arthur or Sesame Street long enough for me to grab a bathroom break or start dinner. Getting a toddler to engage with a smartphone while you wait for a table at a restaurant or try to get out of Target alive can’t be that bad, right?

It’s less about being “bad” and more about what is age appropriate. Technology use for this generation is intuitive. The same way we don’t remember life without TV or the microwave, our kids don’t know life without smartphones. They are in their bedrooms, their classrooms and in the palms of their hands.

Managing technology, like every other aspect of parenting, can feel a lot like we’re making it all up as we go along. Really, is there an aspect of your life where you feel more vulnerable or more judged than how you parent? But we know not all kids fit the same mold and  you know your children better than any expert or blogger. There’s an excellent article by Judith Newman in The New York Times about how her autistic son Gus relates and interacts with Siri in a way he finds difficult with his parents and others. Obviously, Newman has thought long and hard about Gus’s relationship with Siri and made her choices based on what she feels is most appropriate for her son.

For most kids, limiting technology is a good idea. Overuse has been linked to obesity, sleep problems and academic struggles, as well as social and behavioral issues. For every kid, monitoring technology use is a good idea. While it’s easy to waste time online, there’s a lot of good out there. My daughter fixed her iPhone last week after watching a YouTube video and my other daughter frequently uses her laptop to arrange music and record original pieces. Neither would have passed high school chemistry without online tutorials.

The bottom line is to let common sense be your guide. Passively sitting in front of a TV or computer screen for hours at a time is a far cry from utilizing technology to connect, create, and innovate. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines or read what sites like Common Sense Media have to say. There’s a lot of good information out there and, as you know, an informed decision is always the best decision.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Manage Content, Not Screen Time

In the digital age, it’s  become conventional wisdom that too much screen time is a bad thing for  our kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under  the age of two have no screen time at all, and that kids over two watch  no more than 1 to 2 hours a day.

Numerous studies have chronicled  both the rise in overall media consumption and the correlation between  too much screen time and poor academic performance. As a result, parents are constantly reminded to monitor screen time and restrict it as much  as possible.

Unfortunately, that’s becoming increasingly hard to  do. Think of all the screens that are now commonplace around the home.  There are multiple TVs of course, but then there might be desktop  computers, laptops, iPads, iPods, Kindles, smartphones, gaming devices –  the list is almost endless. Are all these screens equally bad or are  some screens worse than others?

The reality is that screens will be an increasing part of our kids’ lives, not less. Most schools now  schedule computer time at school. Some schools even make a point of  providing each child with a laptop and require them to be in use for  virtually every class.

The use of computers, iPads, and other  devices is even more pronounced at higher learning institutions, where a recent Associated Press poll found that the average students stares  into a screen for over 6 hours a day. (That’s nothing – I estimate that  on an average day, I’m looking at some kind of screen for at least 10  hours!)

So how do we decide good screen time from bad screen time?

Clearly it’s down to content. An hour spent prepping for a test on NationalGeographic.com is a totally different experience for a child than watching an hour of cartoons on Nickelodeon. An hour playing the Watch Dogs video game is clearly not the same as an hour reading a good book on a Kindle.

So the next time you worry about your child and too much screen time, stop to consider what kind of screen time they are experiencing. I don’t think it will ever be  like good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, but maybe there’s bad screen  time and not-quite-so-bad screen time!