kids and screen time

4 Ways to Navigate Screen Time With Your Kids

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Our screens can control us—or we can control our screens.

Kids and screen time often seem to go together. In fact, a lot of kids are on devices constantly. Sure, devices aren’t all bad. They can aid learning and keep kids busy for a time. But it’s all so much to handle—especially for kids who aren’t ready to deal with everything coming at them.

From video games and TVs to smartphones and tablets, how much is too much screen time for a kid? One dad might say use it all you want. Another dad says to use it only for education. Yet another dad says never use it. Are you tempted to accept the culture’s screen time standards? Our screens can control us—or we can control our screens. Every family is unique, but here are 4 ways to navigate screen time with your kids.

1. Accept that times have changed.

What does screen time mean in your house? Is it dealing with phones, watching TV, or playing games? On average, kids ages eight to 18 are on screens for more than seven hours a day. Now, before you go giving lectures to your kids, we must understand that times are different. As dads, we can’t run around saying, “When I was a kid, I didn’t sit staring at a screen.” Well, no, we didn’t stare at screens because we didn’t have access to screens—at least not the same kinds our kids have. When you and I grew up, we only had the one TV with bunny ears sticking out of it.

2. Set boundaries.

Once you establish what type of screen time you’re dealing with, it’s time to set limits that work for you and your family. You must be flexible and realistic. There should be some off-limits time. You’re the dad. You pay the bills. You get to decide when the kids’ screens should be turned off. One of our boundaries is no screens at dinner. There aren’t screens on when we’re eating. Setting limits is important so you’re clear about what should be done and what shouldn’t.

3. Use it to your advantage.

There is a positive to screen time. Aside from the educational apps and such, screen time can allow you a break to breathe as a dad. Here’s how to think about your kids and screen time: How can your kids’ screen time serve you as a dad? That’s how you should use screen time. With all our kids, especially after having twins, I don’t know what I’d sometimes do if it weren’t for screens.

We allow screen time for our other kids while the twins are asleep. It allows us to have a quiet moment—if only for a few minutes. We also use screen time as a reward for reading. If our kids read for 20 minutes, they get additional screen time. Now, understand, we don’t incentivize everything. My kids do chores because they get to live in my house. But the point is, use screen time in a way that works for you and encourages your kids toward good behavior.

4. Remember your influence.

I believe kids are using screens more and more because they’re seeing us dads use them so much. It’s vital we model the proper behavior with screens. We aren’t just setting up rules for rules’ sake in our house but are trying to model the behavior we want. Remember that being present is as important as bringing home a paycheck. And we aren’t fully present when we’re scrolling on screens.

Sound off: In dealing with kids and screen time, do you feel confident that you’re doing all you can to prepare them well? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you think we’re doing as a family with navigating screen time?”