Setting screen time rules for optimum teen health (and parent sanity!)

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Tweens + teens + tech = nightmare!!!

Lots of people are doing a lot of talking about setting rules for kids around their use of technology and that’s a really good thing. We don’t have to look far to find examples of how tech is damaging (as well as enhancing) the lives of our kids – it leaks into everything doesn’t it? Family life, school life, social life, private life. Nothing is untouched by tech these days – unless you are super strict and have none in your house.. in which case I guess you won’t be reading this..

I digress.. 

While there is a lot written telling parents to set rules, there isn’t quite as much written about what exact rules to set. And so parents are still left scratching their heads somewhat – it’s not as if we can refer to what our parents did. We are still coming to terms with this shiny new toy ourselves!

 

 

Educational and life enhancing as it it though, technology use really needs to be contained and starting off with rules and sticking to them is the way to go. For sure. Kids will not set their own boundaries, they are not equipped to do so and not only that, but they are relying on us to do this for them.

Several weeks ago a thirteen year old boy that I work with told me he’d been awake ’til 3am gaming  – an over 18’s game, but that’s not the main point. The main point that struck me was this – he said he was exhausted. That he couldn’t concentrate in school. I agreed that he certainly looked tired. He said “Ya.. I know.. I wish my parents would notice that..”.

He said it would be easier for him is they just took it from him, turned off the modem, set rules. That way he’d sleep better and be able to blame them when him gaming buddies whined that he wasn’t online. He thought it was nice that they trusted him but seriously – how could he resist the temptation??

Rules must be set, much as we want to communicate trust to our young people. One way to communicate that trust is to set rules and then trust them to play ball.

My suggestion is pretty old school: write a list of rules, stick them up on a wall, or several walls and be ready to discuss in advance and then issue consequences (not necessarily punishments) for rule breakage. These consequences will be removal of privileges  – tech related privileges will likely work best (This is known as  ‘Logical consequence’ and I’ll discuss the difference between Logical Consequences, Natural consequences and punishment in another post).

 

Rules suggestions:

1. No phones (or laptops, tablets,  iPads, iPods or TV’s) to be used in any way during meals. Ideally have a bowl or a box to temporarily chuck them into. Y’know, gently. Note your own discomfort with this idea (are you resisting it already??) This is where we need to model the behaviour we expect. If you don’t, you’ll look like a hypocrite to an acutely sharp teenage eye and also it will definitely get thrown into your face during a future argument! Phone etiquette is a modern social skill – we all need to adapt and learn it!

2. Homework first. Lots of houses have a rule where TV or whatever is turned on as soon as the school bag hits the floor – that’s certainly what happened in my house. My suggestion is though that access to tech happens only after homework and/or a small household job or two or done. This will have lots of benefits long term – your child will learn self-discipline, patience, and responsibility. It will also help them avoid the distraction and procrastination that goes with TV watching and it will enhance their enjoyment of said distraction when they finally get to it because nothing will be hanging over them. We need to teach relaxation and reward too!

3. Screens off at the same time every night. We know that the blue light emitted by screens, even small screens like phone interferes with the production of melatonin. This is bad news for sleepy time. And that’s bad news for pretty much everything from academic performance to overall physical and mental health.

(Goes for adults too… #JustSayin

4. Bedrooms should be tech-free zones. Two reasons for this –

  • The sleepy time issue as above
  • The ability to monitor what your child/teen is accessing (or what/who, is accessing them) is zero if the tech is in their bedroom.

Allowing your teen to have a TV in his bedroom will only encourage him to watch a lot of TV and it will be nearly impossible to monitor what he’s watching and how much TV he’s watching. Another idea is to have phones shut down at night and handed over to you until morning. There are thousands of kids all over the world texting and snapping into the small hours and wandering around like zombies the next day. You can prevent this. And they can blame you if they get grief from friends who didn’t get the replies they wanted late at night. Two birds, one stone.

 5. And while I’m there, all mobile devices and non mobile devices should be used in front of you so that you can see what they are accessing and monitor for inappropriate content. It’s true that other parents may not be this vigilant, but at least while they are in your home you can protect them in this way. I’ve heard parents say that they’ll access stuff elsewhere so what’s the point?! This may well be true if your have a normal child! However, if they have an anchor to refer to – ie your rules- it’s more likely that they will be aware of what’s OK and what isn’t, even if they access it. And that’s a good thing.

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Women – why you shouldn’t ask for help at home (!!)

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I know it sounds odd  – but there’s method to my apparent madness!

This is my latest for FamilyFriendlyHQ and if you’re a woman and feeling like you do more than your fair share of housework, then this might be for you.

As always – your feedback and comments (and tips) are warmly welcome. Happy reading!

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If you're a woman and feeling like you do more than your fair share of housework, then this piece might just be for you. #putthekettleon #relationships #boundaries #teachpeoplehowtotreatyou #housework share with a fellow housework-hater

Tips for teaching your son not to be “that guy”.

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Have you been affected by the #MeToo campaign?

I am a huge fan of finding ways to empower ourselves and act to be the change we want. With that in mind I wrote this piece as a “what we can do” response to the Weinstein and consequent #MeToo outpourings on social media – an outpouring I warmly welcome and enthusiastically embrace!

The full piece is on FamilyFriendlyHQ – click on the pic to get there:

The trouble with “provocation” & domestic violence

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It’s been pretty harrowing listening to today’s coverage of the case of domestic violence that culminated in the murder of a young mother. The man, who strangled his wife and allegedly threatened to kill her on more than one occasion is pleading guilty to manslaughter, not to murder. That’s one issue I have with this case.

The real issue I have, closely related, is that nature of his reasoning – he says he was ‘provoked’.

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Trouble Saying No?

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It’s a teeny weeny little word and yet it can be so hard to say! (unless you’re a toddler..)

I used to have a lot of trouble with this one – sometimes I still have trouble, truth be told. Why is it so hard?

For most of us saying “no” means riddling ourselves with guilt and being terrified of judgement. People who habitually say “yes” are approvingly described as “selfless” – like that’s a good thing. But is it really a good thing? Continue reading

Is it ever OK to argue in front of kids?

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Sulking = NOT arguing well...
Sulking = NOT arguing well…

I think so yes. Because there are ways to argue ‘well’.

(Hint – sulking isn’t one of them – but we’ve probably all done it!)

 

And not only do I think it’s OK, I think it’s important.

 

 

This is the subject of my latest piece for the lovely folk over at Family Friendly HQ and you can  read more by clicking the green button:

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I hope you find it helpful and as always I am interesting in feedback and further suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

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