When we say our kids are spending too much time in front of a screen, or with technology and we make a rash decision to put a stop to it – so we pull in the rules really tight. Only x number of minutes, per day, or maybe only on weekends. Whatever we think is suitable. But that is only half the job done… what are the kids going to do now?
We actually need to back up a bit because the first thing we need to do is accept personal responsibility for your kids spending too much time in front of a screen. Us, the parents, have allowed this to happen. I know in our house we have a 30min a day, 1 hour on weekends, for recreational screen time. If they want more they need to ask. They do ask, and I say yes, in my distraction and then I wonder why that is all they are doing! So first up, if my child is still young enough for me to be setting the guidelines then I need to make sure I make decisions based on those guidelines.
Secondly, I have to help my kids find something else to do. It is no good just sending them off… chances are they have become so dependent on technology that they don’t know what else to do. This comes back to the discussion on what to do when your kids are bored. I have never given my kids jobs when they are at a loose end. That only puts a bandaid, or a threat, on what is really a deficiency in a life skill. Our children need to be able to make choices with how to spend their time. They need to have projects, or goals that they can work towards. By threatening chores, we are telling our kids just do something – anything – anything that will get me out of a job. Instead I have paused to help my kids see what opportunities are in front of them, and help them, guide them to making good choices. Only when they refuse (heart issue) to be helped have I given them a chore – and this is then as a consequence for refusing help (foolishness indeed) not because they couldn’t decide what to do.
Technology helps to make our kids bored… they can think of nothing else to do. I personally think technology has some great benefits to our kids, but I want them to be broader in their interests and skills. I think we have to be honest and see that technology is a part of our kids future and they have to be prepared and knowledgeable. So in our house, we make a difference between technology for productivity and technology for recreation. I limit the recreation side of things.
I have appreciated the poster seen on Pinterest that lists an acronym to ask our kids:
Have you been:
Read a book?
Exercised 20 minutes?
Done something helpful?
These are good questions to ask our kids to help them redirect their energies, to find something to do instead of pining for technology.
Another thing I’ve had for my kids (and will be revisiting this week), is a short list of projects on the go. Some of my kids have been great starters and not so good and pushing through to the end, so they end up with a box full of half done projects and great ideas. Having a list that they can refer to when they are overwhelmed with either inability or indecision helps redirect their focus.
When Daniel was a toddler, he didn’t know how to play. He would just sit there, then he’d want up cause he wasn’t doing anything. For the first time I had to teach my child how to play. I soon found though that by me spending 5 minutes showing him how to play with a car, or plastic animals, he’d be able to do it on his own for a while. If our kids get so used to technology, we may find ourselves in this situation again. We may have to spend 5-10 minutes getting them kick started on an activity, then leaving them for 10-20 minutes before they need to touch base with us again.
Re-igniting interests, outside of screen time, takes time and effort. It is easy to threaten a chore but it is more helpful to help them find real and interesting things to do. So if you need to reign-in how much time your kids are spending in front of a screen, first consider how you are going to go about that. Reducing screen time is only half the solution… the other half is knowing what to do instead. We need to be available to our kids to help them see the all the opportunities around them, and to help them have the skills necessary to engage with more than technology.
Here’s the chart I’ve made to help Daniel this week:
Two other blog posts I’ve written on boredom:
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