Monitoring Screen Time – Should We (and How)?

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screen time

Here we go! The Easter Holidays have officially begun! Ours started 40 minutes ago, and both children are now glued to their mobile phone (daughter, 12) and Xbox (son, 10). As a treat we’re off to the cinema to see The Missing Link later – it was met with “Oh really? I was joining up with Matthew tonight to play Fortnite”. Welcome to my life!

It’s really tricky isn’t it. Screen time rules this household, and whenever we challenge it, we are reminded that both Huw and I spend our lives staring at tech too (phones, laptops, ipads); we’re both freelancers and haven’t worked ‘usual office hours’ for 18+ years. Yet they are right, we’re a terrible example!

As we have a family travel blog, I make full use of school holidays to get out and about with the children. This really does save the day … amazingly, they actually forget about their gadgets for a while. But when we’re at home, they are zombies, eyes transfixed on a YouTube video, or trying for the umpteenth time to reach the next level in a complicated video game that I don’t even understand.

I often ask myself if our leniency over screen time is damaging them. There are reports that too much screen time can lead to low GCSE results, moderate depression, and emotional instability. Other reports say that none of this is true. My son taught himself to read using his iPad. My daughter can draw, because YouTube taught her. I’m all for a quiet life, and when I put my foot down in the past, the fallout was excruciating.

All I feel able to do is encourage them to limit the number of mind-numbing silly YouTube videos they occasionally try to watch at the dinner table … and while they continue to do well at school, I’ll monitor from afar.

How do you manage screen time?

Keep them busy!

I don’t actively ban screen time, or limit it, however I ensure that my daughter (who is 3) has lots of activities planned. These typically include baking, cooking and chores at home, a walk to the park, trips to the shops and days out with friends and family.

Katy, KatyKicker

Structured screen times

I allow the kids their tablets after lunch at 1pm with the instructions that once Daddy is home, they come off them and go in the garden – both seem happy with that so far – however both haven’t realised that Daddy comes home at 2.30pm everyday so only get an hour and a half away.

They do seem to like the structure however of knowing that after lunch its tablet time however …

Jaime, The Oliver’s Madhouse

screen time

Use built-in screen time limits

We use the built-in screen time limits on iOS, limiting by category as well as by app. Some apps they can use for longer and some like FaceTime and iMessages they have unlimited time as they use them to contact family. Having had moderate access to screens since toddlers, they are sensible about their use though and just see it as one of their many usual options of activities. Some apps like YouTube kids they know they are only allowed during school holidays as a treat and for very limited times. They also can’t install apps without permission, even free ones. They are only allowed to play console games at the weekends, for a few hours max.

Zoe, MamaGeek

Monitor with Family Link

Our sons, Richard and Lyall, are nine and ten. As a family of technology lovers, our sons have access to devices including mobile handsets (sim disabled), a tablet and a PS4 in addition to STEM toys and electronic kits.

The boys’ mobile devices keep them occupied on long journeys – they use them to play games and watch magicians on YouTube (the current obsession!) We’ve always restricted screen-time to weekends and school holidays.

Their devices are behaviour dependent – if the boys misbehave, phones are locked away and the PS4 is unplugged. We supervise their activity but to manage the content they’re exposed to more closely; Tom and I use ‘Family Link’. The Family Link app provides a comprehensive overview of all their activity and triggers an alert if Lyall or Rich are attempting to download an app or access the internet. Via the app we’re also able to remotely disable or enable their devices which is useful if they’re visiting grandparents and we’re unable to supervise their activity first-hand.

Jamie, Daddy & Dad

Make them earn screen time

We have a checklist pinned up of things the boys (10 and 12) have to do each day before they’re allowed to use their devices – this includes going outside to play, reading and helping with household chores.  We always organise several all-day family bike rides during the school holidays, which means we’re all keeping fit and active (and keeps me off my screens too!) I can then be a bit more relaxed about the time they do spend on their devices as I know they’ve had a balancing amount of fresh air and vigorous exercise and so deserve their own form of relaxation. I also try and distinguish whether they’re using screen time as “consumers” and “creators”. If they’re learning to code, using a language App or filming a movie they’re allowed to do as much as they want. Watching videos and playing games we try to limit by using a timer. It doesn’t always work out though!

Karen Gee, Cycle Sprog 

Make sure adults are off their gadgets too!

It’s so easy to slip into a new routine over the holidays of allowing children to have more Screen Time; watching TV, on tablets or phones. Whilst we don’t want our child glued to screens, we have to remind ourselves that it’s their break too and, in my opinion, a little bit of relaxing time watching TV isn’t going to do any harm. What we try to do with our 4-year-old is set the expectations early, letting him know when during the day he can watch TV and play on the tablet and for how long. We also plan and incorporate other activities into the day to keep him entertained. I believe the most important way of managing screen time is by modelling limited screen time ourselves! I can’t tell him not to play on the iPad all day if I’m busy tapping away on my phone.

Georgina, The SEN Resources Blog

Tracey is the Contributing Editor for Tots100 and Trips100. She also blogs at PackThePJs. Tracey writes mainly about family travel; from days out to road trips with her pet dogs, to cruises and long-haul tropical destinations. Her family consists of her husband Huw, a science and technology writer, Millie-Mae (12), Toby (10) and Izzy and Jack the spaniels.

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