Wiss Well-being: New Year’s Resolution to Create Screen Time Structure in Your House

Do you find that everyone is always on a screen in your house? If you want to create healthier habits for your family’s technology usage, you can start by creating some household rules. Here are some tips from to consider from Robert Hackenson, Jr., educator and founder of Dynamic Influence:

1. Not all screen time is equal.

There can be great benefits to being online, depending on how you are spending your time. Are you and your child investing your time, or just killing it? Consider what your children is watching and talk to them about using programs and apps that have a positive impact. For example, if your child loves gaming, there are apps where they can learn how to create their own video game. They can FaceTime with friends, learn how to draw or design, create art, learn basic programming, and other helpful skills. So, when we think about the time we spend on screens, we also need to consider the quality of the content.

2. Creating Screen Time Structure is NOT a Punishment

It is important for you to let your child (and everyone in your household) know that creating a screen-time structure is NOT a punishment, but will keep them physically and emotionally healthy, and support a healthy family dynamic.

3. It’s Easier to Let Out Than to Pull In

If your child is older, understand that there will most likely be some pushback on creating a screen time structure in your house. If possible, create the structure when your child first starts using online programs and apps. However, you can still “pull in the reigns” on screen time when it gets out of hand. The key is for children to understand why; review with them the screen time dangers to their mental and physical health. Screen time is NOT a right; it is a privilege and can be taken away. Most importantly, hold strong and be consistent.

Here are some steps to create your household screen time structure:

Step 1 – Get Buy-in

How do you get your family to buy in to having the new household screen time structure? Come from a place of being sincere and caring about them individually and as a family. You can reference the information about screen time, mental health, and cyber predators, presented by Mr. Hackenson, Jr., at the WSD Parent Education Program in November. The password is: wissahickon.  When discussing family health, emphasize the importance of having a strong family connection supported by good communication. If everyone is on their individual screens at home, communication is significantly limited!

After you have explained why it is important to have a screen time structure, the next step is to create it!

Step 2 – Suggestions for Creating Your Structure

These are some suggestions for setting your household screen time structure. These might vary depending on your child’s age and you may want to add or change any of these suggestions to fit your house. Note: It’s important to get input from your child, but understand you are the parent and have the final word.

Setting Screen Times and Limits

1. How much screen time to allow per day? It’s recommended for younger (elementary school level) to have less than one hour of screen time. For those in middle and high school, the recommendation is less than two hours per day. However — remember, not all time spent on screens is equal.

2. What times during the day are screens allowed? Morning before school? Afternoon after school? Evening before bed? Remember that light from screens can interfere with circadian rhythm and your children’s sleeping patterns. It’s recommended to turn screens off at least one hour before bedtime.

Determine Your House’s Screen Free Time

1.     No screens during meals or snacks

2.     When a parent says it is family time, screens are turned off

3.     Specific screen-free times during the day

4.     Dedicated screen-free days or weekends

5.     Screens placed in central charging location (NOT the bedroom) one hour before bed

6.     Screens away when friends are over

7.     No screens behind closed doors

Consequences of Violating the Agreement

If your child violates the screen time agreement, the privilege of having a device can be taken away and they will have to EARN it back. How can they earn it back? There are multiple options, depending on your parenting style and your child’s learning style. It can be specific, like a chore or activity, or through several chores through a point system. Once they earn enough points, they can get the device back.

WSD embraces the importance of the well-being of our Wissahickon community!

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