Four Tips For Managing Your Child’s Screen Time

It is rare these days to find a child over a certain age who is not glued to their smartphone. TV, surfing the net and games consoles are other distractions that it’s hard to escape totally. Placing a blanket ban on technology is hardly realistic, it seems. But when there is homework or revision to be done, it’s essential your child develops the strength of will and motivation to put aside their gadgets for a while and concentrate. How can you, as a parent, encourage these behaviours?

Don’t make homework the bad guy

This is essential. If your insistence on denying them their phone or the TV becomes centred on homework periods alone, your child may come to dread and resist these times. Instead, encourage healthy and manageable levels of screen time in all areas of life – evenings, weekends and holiday periods, as well as weekdays when there is homework to be done. 

Set The Right Example

As when your children were very small, one of the best ways is to set a good example. Insist on putting aside the phone at mealtimes, for instance, and turning off the TV. Don’t be tempted to send a quick work text or catch up with the news headlines yourself – that will give mixed messages. Instead, use that time to engage with your children about their day. Talk about the challenges they have faced, listen to their stories about interactions with friends, celebrate good test results and ask about forthcoming homework assignments instead.

Limit Screen Usage

It may not be fair to ban TV or use of the smartphone completely, but you as a parent can restrict it. First, help your child become more aware of the time they are spending in front of the box; or how long homework or study sessions become extended if they are messaging friends at the same time. Then, negotiate acceptable levels of screen time with them. Can they turn the smartphone off each night until homework is completed, for instance? Can you settle on a daily upper limit on use of games consoles? Is there a set time when you both agree the TV should be turned off before bed? Involving them in the decision-making is more likely to win them over than imposing demands.

Provide Alternative Entertainment

There’s nothing wrong with unwinding and relaxing with a bit of television from time to time, but it shouldn’t become your child’s only form of entertainment. Truth be told, it’s easy for both parties to use TV as an easy distraction. Can you discuss activities they may like to do instead, such as swimming, a trip to the park or horse riding? At home, you could bake together or play board games for a change. Again, lead by example: use your leisure time to read a book or pursue a hobby rather than reaching for the TV remote, and they are more likely to follow suit.

There’s no doubt you might encounter resistance along the way, but it is a battle worth fighting. Consistency, negotiating compromises, a degree of flexibility and an explanation of the many advantages of limiting screen time are tactics that will pay dividends.

Choosing GCSE Topics

First and foremost, we all want our children to be happy, now and longer term. Part of a parents’ role is ensuring children have the right opportunities and options further down the line for them to achieve their potential and find a job they love, not just tolerate. One of the more important decisions they will make in an academic sense is which GCSE options to pursue. This milestone typically comes during Year 9, when they are around 13 to 14 years old. Seems scary to be thinking about what they’ll be when they grow up already? Maybe, but it’s worth putting time and effort into guiding your child at this time.

What GCSEs they study, and what grades they achieve, will affect their choice of sixth form college and what A Levels they are able to study for. They may affect eligibility for a university course; and even the universities to which they can apply. They may even impact on longer term career choices. So what do you, as a parent, need to know?

Firstly, there is a core of subjects that all pupils must study. These are largely non-negotiable:

  • Maths
  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Sciences

‘Sciences’ covers physics, chemistry and biology, which can account for either three separate GCSEs or the Double Award, which equates to two GCSEs. The latter still covers the three sciences, albeit in a different way, and will not disqualify your child from studying physics, chemistry or biology to A Level, provided an appropriate level of achievement is attained.

So that fills five or six of the options. Most children will study for between eight and ten GCSEs, and the remaining slots can be filled as you and they decide. However, they must be offered at least one option in each of four so-called ‘entitlement areas’. These include the arts, design & technology, humanities, and modern foreign languages; although they aren’t obliged to select one from each of these categories. How to narrow it down? Try the following:

  • If your child has a specific university course in mind, look at university requirements and on online forums for advice on which additional subjects to take. Many universities like to see well-rounded students, so for some, a mixture of languages, an arts subject and their preferred humanities subject, either history or geography, will work well.
  • If they do not know what they want to study further at A Level or equivalent, opting for a broad range will also keep their options open. The GCSE courses will help them learn more about preferences in learning styles and strengths – for instance, design & technology subjects can be more practical; history or geography more theoretical and essay-based.
  • Does your child have a passion for particular subjects? They have to study and achieve in these subjects for two years. It will be demotivating studying for a subject they actively dislike.

What should you advise them against? Essentially, discourage decisions based on personalities such as a like or dislike of a particular teacher; or on what subjects friends are choosing. Two years is a long time in anyone’s life and situations change. Better to make a list of pros and cons, and make the decision objectively!

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