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.

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