For many of us, the long summer school holidays are looming or have started already. Dreamy. Or not. Keeping our children occupied, fed, washed (I have 3 boys so this is officially a Dodgy Area) and off screens is a full time job in itself. Add to that the fact that many parents are working throughout the holidays and the endless taxi and diary management services that are part of the deal – then stand back and watch yourself age!
Screen time seems to be a constant battle for many of us. So I thought it would be helpful to flag up some suggestions of how to deal with this over the next few weeks. As with so much of life, this is a battle that works better as a conversation before the event rather than during. So, if your child is of an age where screens are starting to play a bigger part in their lives or they are about to go to a new school where they will actually need a mobile and/or laptop, it will be hugely beneficial to have a conversation with them now so it is proactive rather than reactive when things go wrong. You may want to consider setting boundaries about when and where they use screens (certain times of the day, not in front of grown up guests, definitely not at mealtimes etc etc) and what sites they look at or avoid .
For teenagers and younger I would really encourage you to insist they should only allowed to use it in a room where you can see them -ie not sloping off to a sitting room or bedroom on their own for hours but in the kitchen/garden where you all are. Another good habit to put into practice is to encourage (read insist) them to leave their device downstairs. The light from all devices (not TVs) is incredibly stimulating to our brains so if a teenager is using a device at night in their bedroom then keeping that device in there overnight, the disruption to their sleep is huge. All at a time when sleep is so crucial as their brains re-wire and process what they have learned that day, building or reducing their overall emotional resilience.
Additionally, it might be a good idea to talk about how you will still be enforcing the rules when they have friends over. How you deal with that in front of your children’s friends is a personal thing but if it’s a useful guide, I just come out with the old nugget – “my house, my bills, my rules” – or something along those lines. Said with a steely eye but a charming smile it usually works without making your children squirm too much!
However you go about it, just remember, it is much easier to slacken the boundaries and restrictions than to tighten them. By talking to your children now about what works for you all as a family and why various restrictions are in place you can put a plan together with them so they are much more likely to understand the reasoning behind it and buy into it. I think one of the most valuable effects of having this conversation in a preventative mode rather than reactionary mode is that it encourages the dialogue between you all to be kept open so, hopefully, should your children stumble across something they don’t like or feel unsure about on social media they will come to you for support rather than hiding it from you.
And finally, don’t forget we as parents need to be aware of our own use of phones etc so we avoid setting an unhelpful example! It may be that we have to make changes too as part of the conversation and boundary setting with our children. Fair’s fair, after all!