During the COVID-19 pandemic, children are spending more time in front of screens than ever before. With the whole family behind screens at home and everything from work, school, playdates taking place online, it’s no wonder parents are feeling confused when it comes to setting rules and limiting their kids’ screen time behaviours.
It is indeed an unprecedented time for parents. There is no prior parenting knowledge to turn to for advice on how to parent during a pandemic – we are all learning, so cut yourself some slack. While there’s certainly no right answer, there are some communication skills that can help. Below we’ve listed our favourite tips on how to manage screen time in your home.
Prevent or acknowledge the problem
We firmly believe that the best way to solve a problem is by preventing it in the first place. Months into the pandemic and most parents have already missed the opportunity to intercept the screen time dilemma. But that’s okay! Now, there is a problem, and the first step to handling the issue is by acknowledging it exists and that it belongs to someone. In most screen time cases, the parent will be the person that owns the problem. It could be that you are worried about your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, or perhaps you are concerned about the data/electricity bill you’ll be receiving at the end of the month?
The most important part is to communicate your concerns honestly and in a non-blameful manner to help your child understand that their behaviour (time spent in front of a screen) is causing you a real problem.
In Parent Effectiveness Training, we use a conceptual Behavior Window to view behaviours of others. The window illustrates four areas of problem ownership:
- Other Owns a Problem
- No Problem Area
- I Own a Problem
- We Own a Problem
You can learn more about the Behaviour Window and other helpful parenting skills in one of our upcoming P.E.T. courses. Click here to get in touch (link: https://www.parents.co.za/contact-us).
Listen to your child’s needs and concerns
No doubt limits will look different than they once did. But a child still needs to understand the importance of setting boundaries – the physical, mental, and financial factors involved. Talk to your child about the change happening in the world. Explain to them that during changing times, we learn to adapt, we experience new emotions, and that we learn to regulate all these factors. Yes, there will be more time in front of screens but also a lot more self-responsibility to manage it.
Plan and manage expectations
It’s time to explore the boundaries. We can’t stress enough how important it is for you to involve your child in the boundary-making process. When a child feels more in control of their fate, they are more likely to comply and work together.
Make this a fun process. Gather some coloured pens, sticky notes, pull a whiteboard closer, and together brainstorm how the household plans to manage screen time. Ask the following questions:
- When is screen time for work, and when is it for pleasure?
- How do you plan to schedule and manage both?
- What are the warning signs of too much screen time?
- Where are the screen-free zones in the house?
- How will the family help each other stay on track?
You’ll be amazed at how creatively insightful children can be. And the best part is that you are also teaching your children how to solve their problems by allowing them to be part of the process. Here is an example of one of our instructor’s brainstorming with her children during the lockdown:
Remember, the most basic way to limit screen time is by setting the example. Children aren’t born with an ability to self-regulate and practice self-control. Therefore, parents should be very cautious about their habits and behaviour around their children. If you model healthy screen use, like setting aside your screens during set times, your children will follow your example without putting up a fight.
Learn more about Parent Effectiveness Training:
Parent & Educational Training
Karen Badenhorst: Parenting, Personal and Professional Development
Contributed by Parent & Educational Training