We’ve all heard parenting experts recommend setting boundaries as the best way to manage technology in our homes, but how do we do that? We all start out with the best intentions thinking the first step is to control the amount of time our children are on devices. Sure, it’s easy to say, “you get one hour of screen time”, but what happens when you go over the time limit? How do you handle that and still stay consistent? That’s where talking about and thinking through your boundaries come in. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine what your boundary will be:
- How much physical activity does my child need on a daily basis? Before you can set a boundary on technology use, you should also consider the alternative. When they get off technology, what is it you are expecting them to do? Is it chores? Is it physical activity? Homework? Family time? Is it unstructured time to be creative? There are many possibilities, so being very clear on the alternatives to screen time will make it seem like less of a punishment and more of an opportunity to do different things.
- Is what they are watching teaching them something or is it pure entertainment? As parents it’s easy to dismiss all screen time as entertainment, when in fact there are so many things you can do from an educational perspective. You might consider giving your kids some “extra” screen time if they are working on a school project, playing a game to help them with typing skills or even researching things to do on the next family vacation.
- Are they interacting with others while they are on the screen or are they by themselves? Again, this is another easy thing for parents to dismiss, but technology plays a very big role in social interaction. Whether they are online actively playing with their friends or they are watching a popular YouTube video that everyone is talking about at school, technology is a major social connection point. Before you set a boundary, talk to your kids about the social side of technology and discuss alternative ways for them to connect with their friends.
- How much technology have they consumed today vs. how much have they created? I love this question posed by Deb Blum during The Screen Machine Summit. It’s a great question to start a dialogue with our kids about how they spend their time. We are all creative in our own way and we should find time every day to get those creative juices flowing.
When it comes to screen time, setting a time limit is like creating a rule, it’s black and white. When we set a boundary, we must look at the big picture of how we spend our time. We have to reflect on these questions and decide what is important to you and your child and why. By thoughtfully setting boundaries, we will help our children establish a healthy understanding of technology as a just a part of the bigger picture of their lives.