Most parents have questions around managing screen use and making decisions about screen time for their child but do you ever stop to wonder if we’re asking the right questions?
There's lots of conflicting information out there to sort through both about quantity and quality, access and safety. While staying informed and gathering information is helpful, the Education for Life approach encourages us to take a more individualized, child-centered, values-based approach. What is right for this child, at this time, to help move their energy in a more expansive direction? Do these activities and choices support our values? And most importantly, are we setting the example we want our children to follow?
Screens are everywhere and have become even more a part of our lives as a result of the pandemic. Parents are often asking for advice and guidance on how to work with screen time and this is a really important topic, especially when it comes to being a more conscious family. Taking time to reflect and get clear on your own values and shift your own habits is an important first step in making choices and changes when it comes to screen time.
While there isn’t a perfect formula or rule book for how to navigate screen time, here are a few guidelines and suggestions to consider:
Being conscious is about making a choice. Take time to consider what matters most to you as a parent and how screen time fits into that. Quality and quantity both matter. Each family and individual may need to decide how much is too much. Making screen-free time a regular part of your day and week allows everyone to develop their awareness and make an informed choice about screen use. But don’t overlook the issue of quality - the media we consume can subtly influence our consciousness in both positive and negative ways. Choosing high quality media to share as a family will set a positive example.
Screens are a part of our world and we will all need some level of technological fluency to succeed. However, it is much easier to delay access to certain experiences than it is to try to control or restrict access. Delaying access to certain screen time privileges and experience will allow your child to have high-quality non-screen experiences to help them develop in a balanced way and make healthier choices in the future. If your child already has access to screen time then setting clear and reasonable limits to their access is the next best step.
Communication is key in all aspects of conscious parenting, especially when it comes to media and screen time. Be interested, involved and aware of what they’re watching and consuming without judgement. Ask questions and make conversation a part of the agreement when it comes to access to screens. Address concerns right away and talk about why you’re concerned and the issues surrounding it. This is another good reason to wait - it’s much harder to reason and talk with younger kids (12 and under) and not generally recommended as a strategy because, according the EFL approach, they are relating to the world more through their bodies and feelings than through the intellect. (Read more about the Stages of Maturity here.)
Give whole-hearted attention and support for any and all non-screen activities. This is especially important in the teen years when they are trying out new things but applies to all ages. Simply by valuing their individual interests and activities you can help deter screen time use. It can also be helpful to emphasize non-screen activities as a family or to choose screen-free periods like dinner or weeknights to allow everyone to have a break.
Pay attention to your own screen use, both quantity and quality. Consider the impact of what you watch and listen to when the kids are around including news, music and movies. Set an example by choosing to prioritize in-person connection and non-screen activities whenever possible. Reflect too on how the environment may or may not reflect your priorities - is there a TV or screen in every room? Are movies and TV a daily activity?
Bringing awareness to the use of media and screens can create big changes and help you live and parent in ways that support your values and bring out the best in your family. If you’d like to dive deeper into this reflection and make some changes with some extra support then join us starting November 9th for a 4 week series on Conscious Screen Time.