Give Up Screentime Fights

So much worry, arguing, screaming, and power struggles are spent between parents and kids over screen time. The jury is still out on the effects but enough has been written about brain damage, nature deprivation, inactivity, eye damage, etc., etc. to keep parents tethered to a rope yanking their children away from the very thing that fascinates them most.

Video game addictions, internet obsession, contact with cyberspace predators all have us living in fear for our children’s minds and safety. Many parents report angry, hostile moods in their children once they are removed from their device. All very real concerns, which make it very difficult to trust what I am about to suggest.

I have been trying an experiment with some of the parents I work with and finding an amazing success rate. My suggestion is to lay off your children’s screen time.

“Yikes! How can I do that and be a responsible parent? My child will stay glued to one device or another forever.” “I can’t just let him rot in front of the computer screen.” “She spends her entire life texting without looking up from her phone.”

Children stick close to forbidden fruit. When they fear not getting enough, they hoard what they can. When they know we distrust and dislike what they love, we actually drive them to it. They have a need to prove something to us when we disapprove of them.

When we yell, threaten, punish, and bribe our children to get them away from screens, we are throwing all our attention and focus on just what we want them to pay less attention to. After we argue and criticize and provoke their anger, is it any wonder they are in hostile, aggressive moods when we do get them off?

My challenge to you is to put attention where you want it and give little attention to what you don’t want.

If you are going to have technological equipment in your house, give your children cell phones so you can stay in touch, and buy video games to please them, doesn’t it seem oxymoronic to then criticize and blame them for using them the way they want?

 

Set clear standards from the beginning:

• Keep your children technology-free until they can be responsible handling these devices.

• When they demand something you are not ready to give, don’t allow their anger and disappointment to bowl you over. Stand firm on your values.

• When you are ready, get involved with your children. Learn about what they love. Play games with them. Ask them to teach you. Find out what the draw is and be understanding of it. For some children, the computer world is the only place they feel successful.

• As with television, establish rules that your children are engaged in setting asking their opinion on what they think is reasonable. Make compromises. Make it work for both of you.

• Once parameters are clear and followed, count your blessings.

 

If you find you and your children fighting over screen time, here are some tips to switch your attention:

• Put your focus on creating other opportunities that you know they enjoy. Plan biking trips, martial arts classes, family reading time, time with your attention.

• Let them spend as much time as they like on their screens. Watch when they get off and what they do then. Chart the time so you see it over time.

• Expect them to stay on long hours when you first stop fighting about it. Be patient.

• Try this as an experiment for at least 2 weeks, preferably a month. You might tell your child about the experiment and plan reevaluate at the end—or not.

You might be surprised what you discover. Yes, there are addictions, but many children, when given the opportunity to set their own agendas, actually do control themselves and get bored doing one thing all the time.

 

 

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4 comments on “Give Up Screentime Fights
  1. Jen B says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. Technology is becoming a huge part of our society, and my job as a parent is allowing my child the experiences that will help him to be successful as an adult and that will enivitably involve technology. So allowing it to a point makes so much sense. I can not purchase an IPad and introduce it to him and then come back and take it away and expect the desire to go away. Or I can’t have the TV on at times and then tell him he can’t use it. I do see a balance and I do see the point that if you hone in on the one behavior it will drive them to do it more.

  2. Denise says:

    I appreciate your ideas on this and find them helpful, but I am not ready to give my son unlimited screen time. While I don’t want screentime to be the forbidden fruit, I do want my children to know that schoolwork comes first, as well as some time for chores and just hanging out with the pets and family members. On the days that I don’t much intervene, he is there every waking moment he is in the house and it’s the very first place he goes when he comes home. I’ve been trying to establish compromises and talking to him about my concerns. This includes sharing with him some of my own reading about the affect of screen time. Recently, I’ve read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr which I highly recommend to any concerned parents. One compelling point he makes is that the internet “seizes our attention only to scatter it.” Many studies show its affect on our abilities to problem solve, learn and think deeply. He is not, nor am I, recommending we never use it, for pleasure, for staying in touch, for education or work– but to do so knowingly can help us set limits–and this is what I want my children to have–the information about its benefits as well as its potentially harmful impacts.

    • admin says:

      Denise – I completely agree with you. I want our children to be well-rounded and well-read as well as spending valuable time with family and friends. I work with a lot of parents who are in daily battles with their children over internet access and video games. It is these battles that enrage children and parents both that are what stand in the way of the parent-child relationship that is so critical to raising a child’s self-control and self-confidence. It is important to set limits on screen time but most parents are sending very mixed signals to their kids about technology. Mostly those messages tell kids, “I hate what you are doing and I am terribly disappointed in you for wanting to do it.” These are the relationship that are in danger and in need of stepping back to see what the child is needing and getting from technology, I believe. Once battles ensue, the relationship gets complex and the child needs to be part of the process.

  3. unschooling mum says:

    I did this accidentally with my children, I was heavily pregnant, then had a newborn and then we moved house and so me saying no was less (me sometimes suggesting to watch a movie or play on the computer increased) and then one day about a month after we had moved I suggested to my eldest he watched a movie and it was met with “no not a movie!” and I realised that they were’t actually that interested in the screens anymore.
    They still understand that screens are not that great overall, we call them junk food for your brain but like the author has written because the limits have gone the TV/computer has come down off it’s pedestal and is now just another thing they could do if they choose, and they choose to use them far less than when limits were in place (we still have limits around content of course).

    The author didn’t say whether she recommends just removing limits altogether, but what I’ve read in unschooling circles is that it’s better to just say yes more not suddenly remove a limit as that can be confusing and scary to a child that’s always had something limited “for their own good”, they wonder if you no longer care and they go a bit crazy getting as much as they can in case you put the limit back in.