8 Tips for Managing Screen Time

I threw my hands up and said, “I need five minutes!” Whether you’ve got one, four, or more, sometimes us moms just need to eat, shower, get dressed, talk to our partner, and invest in ourselves all in five minutes. Screen time has saved my life more than once on a hectic Saturday when the snow has trapped everyone inside. 

Parenting is overwhelming and often very challenging, even if we never say that out loud. We’ve all been overstimulated and desperate for even a thirty-second breathing break. The funny thing about motherhood is that the moment that tablet or video game controller leaves our hand, the mom guilt punches us in the gut for needing a break. 

Our goal here at GameTruck is to support and equip families as they navigate raising kids in the digital age. Every family and child is unique, so what works for your child may be very different from someone else’s, and that’s ok. Screens are a relatively new thing that past generations didn’t have to worry about. We’re navigating a new area in this realm of parenting. What does success with screen time look like to you?

Still trying to figure out where to start? Whether your child is dancing away with their friends at their GameTruck party or watching Fortnite videos on Youtube, here are eight tips to help you succeed at managing screen time.

Be an example with screen time.

This hurts. While we desire the best for our kids in limiting screen time, one of the best ways to help them accomplish this is to model the behavior ourselves. For many adults separating from the phone is a struggle. By monitoring our device usage, we can emotionally relate to our kids and show that we are doing this as a family. 

Set limitations for everyone.

It’s easy for us to get overwhelmed and too tired to enforce a new family standard, but the consistent application is essential. If there are no phones at the table, ensure that this expectation applies to everyone.

Keep distractions at a minimum.

When the screens are put away, maximize the time. Keep electronic distractions at a minimum. Turn off the sound for notifications if you can. Creating healthy space from screens can promote relaxation and help you detach from stress. 

Not all “screen time” is the same. 

How our kids utilize technology and what they engage in are what matters. There’s a difference between video calling a friend or grandma and mindlessly scrolling on Youtube. While both can be good, the examples highlight two different ways we can use technology. Devices can help us research, create videos, draw, and more. Creation, connection, entertainment, and work are a few ways we use screens. This fact can help you develop a screen time policy that differentiates between digital activities that engage the brain positively and those that don’t. 

Connect with each other.

Screens can be a connection opportunity even if the content you’re consuming isn’t “educational.” You can intentionally get those little gears turning by asking transformative questions about things you’re watching or playing. 

Here are some example questions…

  • To what extent do you believe in second chances, and why?
  • How do you like to be comforted when you’re sad?
  • If you had to learn a new skill, what would it be? Why is that?
  • What’s a career you think you’d love?
  • What positive trait in the main character reminds you of someone? 
  • What do you look for in a good friend? 

These conversations are designed to help promote positive connections by getting to know someone on a deeper level. They can also assist in getting kids to start thinking critically about some more complicated topics. 

Be media critics when it comes to digital media.

Encourage your kids to digest the media you are consuming as a family. What makes this movie, video game, tv show, etc. good? Transformative questions can help your child think critically about the information presented, increasing awareness of messages and agendas.

Know when it’s “too much” screen time.

The “managing screen time” conversation is complex, often ignoring the uniqueness of each child and family. Everyone is different. Remember, each child is unique and may have different needs when it comes to technology. 

How do you know what the perfect time range is? Observation. Watch how your child acts online before, during, and after the device is removed. 

  • Is their behavior positive?
  • Is this portion of their life balanced with family time, academics, sleep, etc.?
  • Are they consuming good content?

Implement Common Sense Family Agreement.

During this transition, it can be helpful to create or use a family agreement. This lets everyone know the expectations and boundaries, eliminating any confusion. Common Sense Media offers a free family agreement for Younger and Older kids.

While personal screens may be a relatively new thing, it’s not something that we need to be afraid of. Implement all or some of these tips to help teach your kiddo how to engage with technology healthily!