This seems to be an issue in every home across the country. Even if your child doesn’t yet have a cell phone, they still likely have access to a TV, a parent’s phone, a tablet, or some other gaming device. Every one of these devices is intentionally programmed to be addictive. I’m sure you’ve also heard before of the damaging effects that too much screen time can have on us and especially the developing minds of our kiddos.
So how do we protect them in a world of constant screen bombardment? If you find out the answer, please share it with the rest of us. It seems we all struggle in it, my own home included. The following are the suggestions that I can make from trial and error.
While they are young, avoid internet access. If you give them games, they will find strangers to chat with unbeknownst to parents. They’ll also find YouTube videos, which at first can seem harmless, until the pop-up videos that follow have content you wouldn’t approve. Try to choose gaming systems that don’t connect to the internet for some childhood fun.
Set parameters. At our home, screens for gaming or viewing are off-limits Monday through Thursday with a two-hour limit on Friday through Sunday. You may choose less or a different layout that works best in your home. The children (and adults) will likely push these limits every time due to the addictive nature of the devices. Use a timer. Set an alarm. Remove the devices for extended amounts of time if it is abused. I find my kid’s attitudes are cranky toward one another when they’ve gotten too much time on screens.
Wait to get phones as long as possible. In our home, we waited until they had a job and a driver’s license before allowing one for safety. Even this, we use to our advantage with apps such as Life360. We can see where they are, how fast they are driving, and what time they arrived. It’s a convenient tool of accountability. I am a believer that they need to learn to navigate temptations while they are still under the umbrella of our home. We have given and taken away many apps as they prove trustworthy or not. But the permanent temptations of having a phone are deep waters to navigate. We needed to give in for our 10-year-old due to technologies surrounding her health condition. I don’t suggest it if it can be avoided.
There are many different parent screening apps out there that prove helpful as well. Some can set up time allowances and turn off the phone at certain hours. Some prevent the ability to access internet without permission. There are many capabilities for protection. It’s important to research to find what is the best solution for your home.
Do not allow screens in the bedrooms. Not only does late night screen time interfere with sleep habits, it also lacks accountability. What is done in the dark grows in the dark. We want our children to enjoy the joys of being a child without the uninhibited access to grown up things. Use an actual alarm clock, fan, or noise maker if they’ve been using a device for these purposes.
Have a place and time established where phones get turned into a charging station. Some may choose to do this upon arriving home. Perhaps family dinner is the time or bedtime. Whatever you choose, stick to it. If you are battling this, you are being a good parent. I commend you for your stick-to-it-iveness.
Shauna Nivens is a wife, mother of four and Womens and Hospitality Director for Park Chapel Church in Greenfield. She can be reached at [email protected]