Many parents experience stress when it comes to the topic of children’s screen time. How much is too much? Should you restrict it? Is screen time a necessary evil? Or is screen time a positive thing? The questions are endless.
A reader sent me the following note about screen time.
“My 15-year-old spends several hours on the computer and she does not part with her phone. She does activities and is a good student, but every free moment she has is spent on Facebook or texting. The network she is on allows for free texts to certain numbers. WI-FI is free so she has Internet access on her phone. She feels that if she has done her chores, then she can spend her free time any way she likes (especially as it is summer holiday now). How do I offer choice or motivate her to limit her time on the computer to two hours a day or whatever? How do I get her to want to put her phone down? I used my authority and demanded that she obeys me, but that isn’t what I want for me or her anymore. I want her to understand and manage herself. Help please.”
Here is my reply about screen time:
Any way you look at it, spending time on some mechanical device is a lone activity and deprives people of other opportunities. Let her know that you understand at this age her friends (real or virtual) are the most important thing in her life. However, being addicted to anything is unhealthy, and, as a mother, you are responsible for her becoming a healthy, responsible person.
The problem today is that she is on summer vacation and has lots of free time. Even so, here is the procedure: Ask her how much time she could limit herself to technology in order to live a healthy lifestyle that includes proper diet, enough sleep, and exercise. The body was made for movement. Besides, young people need to have live interactions with other people to observe expressions, improve oral and aural communications, and generally to improve social skills.
The point is for you to ELICIT from her a time limit that you can both agree on. If she comes up with a time limit that is not satisfactory to both of you, ask, “What else?” again and again until you both come to an agreement.
During the summer months, be flexible—up to four hours; two hours during school days. If in the future she does not abide by the decision, AT THAT TIME elicit a consequence or procedure from her. Appeal to her by saying that, with all you have provided and given her, you also need some satisfaction for your efforts. Let her know that when she does not consider how you feel, she is operating on Level A narcissism—only considering her own feelings. That’s what it is like to act on Level A.
Other Resources to Help
You may want to consider investing a few dollars in the eBook Children of Rainbow School. Have her read it. Understanding the difference between internal and external motivation can really help her develop self-discipline and moderation in all things, a key factor for not just screen time, but also a successful life.