“Can I play on the iPad?”
“No, you’ve had enough screen time today, I’d like you to play something else”
“Ohhh, can I PLEASE play on the iPad?”
“But I want to play on the iPad! Can I?”
Sound familiar? If you’re house is anything like mine with young kids, the following conversation probably happened at least a few times a day over the recent school holidays. The repeated requests from your children to play on an iPad or game console of any sort can drive you to insanity if you’ve been trying to set screen time limits for your children and stick to them.
Why don’t they take ‘no’ for an answer? Why do they get so obsessed with the device and ask to use it over and over again? It almost seems like an addiction…
Well, the first point to note is that you’re not alone – this issue is presenting itself in a big way to parents everywhere. So how can we move to a more positive and effective method of managing the amount of screen time our children have without it always turning into an ongoing negative exchange?
A possible answer lies in changing the foundations of how these conversations take place.
During my time in schools I’ve observed that some teachers can drive themselves crazy standing up the front of the room and telling students what they should or shouldn’t be doing again and again and again, and still be dealing with the same negative behaviour everyday regardless. Why don’t these students get the message?
The answer often is because the students didn’t feel any ownership over the guidelines the teacher was setting in the first place. If they haven’t ‘bought in’ to the rules being set, they have no intrinsic motivation to keep to them. The teachers knew why they set certain rules, it seemed obvious, but they sometimes didn’t realise that the students hadn’t really thought through why those rules were in place.
A teacher’s world completely changes when they turn the rule setting over to the students. What rules do they think should be in place in order for us all to be able to learn together in a happy environment? Having the students come up with the rules, and the consequences for breaking them, changes the foundations of all future interactions.
It’s the same as parents. Trying to enforce particular limits on screen time is frustrating for us, but also for the child that has no deeper understanding of why these limits are in place and had no say in deciding on them. It seems like a pointless rule to them which is designed solely to ruin their life! Try going right back to square one and developing some screen time rules with your children there with you. Have them work out with you what sort of time on a device is appropriate, as well as what sort of activities might be appropriate for them to be doing. Remember, some activities on screens are highly educational, creative, social and stimulating.
Discuss with your children: why are you actually worried about them staring at a screen all day? What might be the negative consequences of this? You may be pleasantly surprised at the maturity of the conversation as your children start to realise the reasons behind the limits you’ve been setting. Once the new rules are set together, there is a joint buy in and hopefully far less negativity over any interactions about the topic in the future. You may even set a time limit for each day, within which the child has some control over when they use that time.
The next thing to do is to brainstorm other things your children can be doing in times that they might want to play on the device but can’t. Sometimes kids genuinely need help finding other activities to engage them, especially on school holidays. Also, what are the things they need to do around the house to help out before they can even access their screen time for the day?
I came across this article recently written by a mum who went through this exact process with great success. Please click on the link and have a read, and if you try something like this with your kids, let me know how you go in the comments below.