This post was written by Alon Shwartz, co-founder/CEO of unGlue and a father of three.
From phones and computers to videos and games, kids are exposed to a wide array of screens on a daily basis. We all agree that too much screen time has a negative impact, socially, physiologically, and physically. In response to those worries, our first impulse as parents is to set rules that we will have to enforce. While sensible boundaries for screen usage are important, some of the most common screen time rules are not actually helpful. I’ve compiled the top seven stupid screen time rules that don’t do anything except drive your kids crazy and solves nothing.
1. Turn Off the Internet at night
As a guideline, turning off the Internet and putting the screens away in the evening is great. But when these guidelines become rigid rules, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. A strict no Internet after 8 pm policy could mean turning off the computer before your child finishes homework, potentially preventing them from completing it on time. Also many kids like to listen to streaming music apps like Spotify, which is not possible without the Internet. Additionally, if the Internet cannot be on after 8 pm, you inadvertently encourage your kids to try to squeeze in as much Internet time as possible before 8. Your rules need to be flexible enough that your kids can exercise some freedom and practice making good decisions based on their schedule. Not all days are the same and life, even at a young age, is dynamic.
2. Take Away Their Device
Taking away privileges or “grounding” is one of the most common ways parents deal with screen related transgressions. Confiscating a device leads to tears, temper tantrums, and shouting matches. It places you in an antagonistic relationship to your child. Additionally, it does nothing to prepare your children to manage their screen time when you are not around. Have real conversations with your kids about screen time and help them learn to practice screen self-control so you don’t need to take their devices away from them.
3. Tell Them, “I Already Told You to Stop!”
It is frustrating when we tell our kids to turn off the screens and they ignore us. The phrase, “I already told you to stop,” however, immediately puts your child on the defensive. Even if they put the phone down then and there, they are already in trouble. As a result, some kids may choose to double down and push back harder in response. Instead of putting yourself in the position of deciding when screen time is over, work with your child to set a limit in advance.
4. Expect to Manage Screen Time on Their Own
I know, I just told you that you need to let your kids learn to make good decisions with their screen time usage. But you can’t expect them to do it naturally, especially young children. Keep in mind, kids don’t see time in the same way that adults do. Bedtime and dinnertime seem to sneak up on them daily. It is almost frighteningly easy for kids, and let’s be honest adults too, to get swept up watching videos, playing games, or browsing social media and lose track of time. Setting a timer is one way to remind kids of limits without having to be the enforcer.
5. No Devices on Weekdays and No Limits on Weekends
When it comes to screen time, moderation is key. If all devices are off-limits during the week, kids are naturally going to want to spend as much time as possible on them every weekend. Rather than teaching kids how to properly manage screen time, it creates a feast or famine mentality around screen time. You may also inadvertently encourage your kids to use a friend’s device or try to sneak some screen time in midweek when you are not looking. If, on the other hand, you allow some device usage during the week, the yearning for screens may be partially satisfied and prevent weekend Internet bingeing.
6. The Rules Don’t Apply to You
Take a look at the previous five rules. How many of them to you adhere to regularly? Do you turn off the Internet at a set time every night? How would you respond if your spouse or your boss decided you were spending too much time on your device and took it away? Set basic ground rules for screen time in your house, make it clear they apply to the entire household, and then follow them. Truthfully, most parents are terrible role models when it comes to screen time management. How often do we use the “I’m using it for work” excuse? Exactly! Take aim at your own poor screen habits and lead your children to make better choices by giving them an example to follow.
7. Believing That Parental Control Software Works
The problem with parental control software is that it puts all the control into the hands of parents and no control for the kids. You set the rules and your kids are expected to follow them. Parental control solutions do not give kids the freedom to make their own decisions about their time. If you expect your children to make good decisions, you have to give them the chance to learn how to do it and learn along the way.
The fact is, screens are not going anywhere. As parents, if we want our children to become successful at managing their time online, we need to let them practice. We need to let them learn the value of time; the fact that time is finite. After all, we teach our kids to make the right decisions in every other aspect of their lives.
I founded unGlue because I discovered that when children are given some control over their screen time, they learn to manage their time successfully without fights or tears. unGlue gives kids the ability to manage their time, earn more by “working for it” and encourage them to save time for a “rainy day”.
At the end of the day, our job as parents is to teach them and guide them, but they need to learn to walk on their own.