How to solve common screen time issues and bring back the peace

TVs, gaming consoles, tablets, phones and the screen time issues they throw up in our families would have to be the Achilles heel of modern parenting. I’d hazard a guess that various screen time issues are the biggest reasons for fights between parents and teens and tweens right now. They make you want to tear your hair out in frustration!

I’ve been pushing back on my kids’ screen time for the better part of a decade. I don’t necessarily have a problem with screens  (TV, games, phones, tablets), but I’ve definitely got an issue with all the things our kids are missing out on when their heads are stuck in a screen. Health, development and raising-interesting-people issues aside, I just really hate seeing their little zombie faces, lit up by a blue screen, staring at a rectangle.

Finding the right balance is what it’s all about. One parent might be okay with their kids being on screens until bedtime each night. Another parent might be okay with screens being their kids’ only hobby. Or maybe a parent it fine with screens being the first thing their kid picks up in the mornings. Let’s face it, these aren’t screen time issues unless they are an issue for you!

Me? I monitor time spent on those addictive little temples more than anything else my kids do. I ride their arguments about screen time like a double-up wave. Bring it, kids!

Don't miss the Screen Freedom ebook

Screen time problem solvers

1. “In a minute!!!!!”

The issue

A “minute” in screen time is approximately 2 hours in real time. Plenty of kids simply won’t get off once their on. It sux when your evenings are spent trying to kick your kid off their screen. ‘Just die already!’ is not really how you pictured interacting with your treasures.

Realistic solution

In advance, agree consequences for not following the ‘switch off’ rule. You might have patience and will be okay with a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ or ‘half hour less screen time tomorrow’ situation.

I am not patient, so at my place it’s an instant week ban from any screens whatsoever. I’ve always found it much easier to have very black and white consequences as monitoring the grey areas requires too much vigilance on my part and too much room for negotiation on my kids’. It might even help to draw up a contract, if contracts are your thing. Do what works for you.

•  Agree a specific time to down screens at the time they go on. “So, it’s 5:25 pm now, so that means it’s power off at 6:55 pm, okay?”

• Remind them of the consequence for not getting off on time. “We said a week’s screen ban if you’re not off on time, agreed?

•  Set a timer to remind you when it’s five minutes until the agreed time, then give them a warning. “Five minutes, hon. Wrap it up!” With time, they will be able to set their own timer and self-monitor this.

Screen time issues don't need to take over your home - try this

•  Tell them time’s up, then give them a five minute good-grace period.

•  If they don’t come off after that, take their iPad / computer / remote control and unplug if necessary to get them off at that time (trust me, a kid will get straight off their gaming station if you threaten to unplug it… I think it resets it or something… not sure, but they jump!).

•  Follow through with your agreed consequence.

After a while, most kids will be able to self-monitor screen time by setting timers and being reminded of consequences.

Tech-help

•  Set up parental controls on computers to shut them down at a certain time: Mac | PC

•  FamilyPause will lock your child’s phone or tablet at a set time

•  Set play time limits on gaming devices: PS4; Nintendo Switch; XBox

Our Pact (only on Android) lets you draw up a pact with your kid and the app helps them stick to it. It also tracks their every move (hence Apple’s Our Pact ban due to privacy and security risks late last year), but that’s another article…

I’ve always found it much easier to have very black and white consequences as monitoring the grey areas requires too much vigilance on my part and too much room for negotiation on my kids’.

2. “But I’ve got hooooomework to dooooo”

The issue

Kids usually hate homework until they realise it’s the key for parents to let them open their laptop. Once you introduce screen limits, they can spend hours “doing homework”, when previously getting them to do 10 minutes was a stretch. Seriously, kids, we weren’t born yesterday.

Common screen time issues solved for parents - getting the homework done

Realistic solutions

Set a time each day for homework and insist that it’s done in the living room, not the bedroom. Make homework time a time when you’re home, so you can keep an eye on things. It works for me when I’m preparing dinner in the kitchen, and my three are right next to me at the dining table. Mind you, it’s amazing how little homework it turns out they have to do each night these days…


•  20+ homework tips to take the hassle of out of homework
•  Try the Pomodoro technique
•  6 ways to get kids to focus on homework and ditch distractions


 

Tech-help

•  Habyts lets you set a study time window

•  Freedom will let you stop access to a PC, Mac or phones between certain times

•  Apps like ColdTurkey and AntiSocial let you block access to certain websites at certain times

3. “I can’t get up, I’m tooooo tiiiiired”

The issue

Some kids stay up until all-hours gaming with or chatting with friends. A 13-year-old friend told me it’s the only time when teens can hang out online and know the ‘little kids’ aren’t there too. He was not amused when I told him he’s still a little kid to me.

This might help too: How to set boundaries on Fortnite and other games

Realistic solutions

Self-monitoring is hard to get going in this category. Definitely talk to them about the importance of getting good sleep. Remove obstacles by not having gaming stations or TVs in bedrooms. Switch off the wifi at a set time each night.

No parent wants to have to get up in the night to check on their little insomniac gamer… but, by all means, do it if you have to. An easier solution is to take their remotes away and lock up devices and phones before bed. Put the key under your pillow… kids are sneaky.

No parent wants to have to get up in the night to check on their little insomniac gamer… but, by all means, do it if you have to.

Tech-help

•  Set up parental controls on computers to shut them down at a certain time: Mac | PC

•  FamilyPause will lock your child’s phone or tablet at a set time

•  The inbuilt Apple Screen Time can be set to limit phone access between certain times

•  Set play time limits on gaming devices: PS4; Nintendo Switch; XBox

•  Freedom will let you stop access to a PC, Mac or phones between certain times

A common screen time problem is kids not getting out of bed in the morning

4. “I wasn’t looking at my phone!?”

The issue

One thing we know for sure: screens are a massive distraction for kids. Their focus is constantly being pulled by their phones.

Realistic solutions

Turn off all the notifications! It’s hard enough to pull your attention away from your email and socials without them constantly dinging at you: look, look, look, look, look!

Here’s how to switch off notifications on iPhones.

Rally your school to make sure phones are always left in bags during class time (I am still shocked at how many high schools allow kids to use phones in class).

Set a rule to only check socials at set times each day. See ‘homework’ above for ideas on how to help your kid monitor this.

And, don’t buy them an Apple watch. Full stop.

Tech-help

•  Forest can help kids start to understand their screen usage in a cute tree-planting way

•  Moment sets goals to help reduce time on screens

•  BreakFree shows you how much time you spend on each app on your phone

Don't miss the Screen Freedom ebook

5. “Evvvveryone else has this app!”

The issue

The app could be Instagram, Snapchat or YouPorn – if other kids have got it, your kid will try to convince you they have to have it too.

Realistic solution

I threw YouPorn in there for effect… fact is, if an app doesn’t suit your values and you don’t want your kid using it right now, then don’t let them have it. Doesn’t matter what the app is or how many kids are in the gang. It’s a hard no from me.

Doing this in a fair way is all about being crystal clear about why you are opposed to something, so you can be clear with your child. Just remember, many screen time issues might easily be solved by parents knowing exactly what it is they are dealing with. Don’t just dismiss something because you don’t know enough about it… you owe it to your kid to at least research it and decide based on that knowledge.

If you’re worried about your kid missing out socially because they don’t have a particular app, just remember that nobody lives exclusively in an app. Even Instagram. Kids connect over many different things (even the fact that their parents are mean). Your kid might miss out on some social moments, but really not that many in the scheme of things. Sticking to your values and showing your kid that you’re prepared to do so is more important than them missing the goss over a photo or joke.

Tech-help

•  Block your child’s ability to download certain apps with FamilyTime or KoalaSafe.

What are the biggest screen time issues you have with your kids?

Feature image by Kelly Sikkema; 2 by JESHOOTS.COM; 3 by Pixabay

Bron Maxabella

Founder

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here.

Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

1 Comment
  1. I’m still shocked that schools allow phones too! News last week was all about how some schools are banning phones starting next year! Say what!!??
    Why on earth does anyone think kids can learn in a classroom with their attention being distracted, nor do they need it during lunch either, try this kids, talk to real people.
    ‘Need it” ? ring the office, worked pre phone era

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