How to Set Screen Time Boundaries

Education News, Tips for Parents
Mary Lonsdale
Screen time has rocketed over the last year - particularly during the pandemic. Here is a guide to help you set boundaries for your children.

Studies show that screen time has soared among children over the last year – causing widespread concern among parents and educators. As well as the potential impacts on physical wellbeing (if children are cooped up inside and not getting much exercise) and health (there has been a noted increase in eyesight and sleep problems related to excessive screen time), there are also mental health implications.

Since the pandemic took hold, millions of children have had to switch to online learning – so it’s not surprising that screen time has rocketed. Moreover, devices are – for many – the only gateway to social interaction: the only way to communicate with friends and family during lockdowns. Nonetheless, the data is startling: when compared to January 2020, website and app visits were up by 100% in January 2021 – and daily time spent on apps had increased by 15%.

Whilst no-one wants to deprive their children of pleasure and interaction, a balance must be struck in order to safeguard their general wellbeing; so it’s important to set healthy boundaries. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the ways in which you can enforce limits to make sure your children aren’t spending too much time glued to their devices.

How to Set Screen Time Boundaries: Lead by Example

In an ideal world, limiting screen time would be as easy as teaching children to play outside – but unfortunately this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds (particularly during a pandemic). In addition, technology is a part of modern life, and being adept with devices may prove useful in future: so it’s important to create a sense of balance. With this in mind, don’t forget that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy for limiting screen time; and, in addition, your strategy may need to be refined as your children mature and technology changes.

However, one of the easiest ways to create healthy screen-time boundaries is to monitor your own use of devices. Set a good example. Whilst you don’t have to follow exactly the same rules as your children, if you are distracted by your phone, or have fallen into the habit of checking it often (multitasking during family time, for example), make a concerted effort to break that habit. Put your phone down and show your children the importance of dedicating your full attention to the activity at hand – whether that’s cooking, working, or spending time together.

Designate ‘No Screen’ Times and Locations

No matter how big of a role devices play in contemporary life, there are times – and places – during which screen time simply isn’t appropriate. It’s crucial, therefore, to teach children about this early: not just for their wellbeing, but also so they realise electronic devices cannot always be present.

Designate these carefully according to your preferences. Perhaps screens are banished when there is homework still to be done; during dinner; or (during normal times!) when friends have come to stay. Perhaps devices are not allowed at the dinner table or in their bedrooms at night.

The ‘one screen’ rule is also useful: this should apply to the whole household, and simply means that people are not permitted to split their attention between multiple screens. If your child is using their laptop to complete some homework or talk with friends, for example, they would not be able to check their phone at the same time. Or, if you’re having a family movie night, other devices must be put away – you cannot watch a film and surf the web simultaneously! This not only introduces some healthy screen-time limits but also communicates the importance of single focus, and concentrating on just one thing at a time.

Use Technology

It might seem strange to suggest that technology could help you limit technology – but that’s exactly what we’re suggesting! There are a few tech options that could make your life a little easier, such as:

  • Time restriction tools. Routers, computer security packages, and games consoles often include options to restrict usage: these will allow you to set time limits so that a gadget can only be used for a specific length of time.
  • Apps. Tech giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have all developed apps that will allow you to monitor how much time is being spent on particular sites or platforms. Some of these will also allow you to enforce limits, meaning that, after a specific time threshold has been reached, the user will be kicked off the internet (or the app will be locked).

If possible, it’s better to try to introduce healthy habits so that your child will choose to put their device down – and see the value in such an action – but this isn’t always possible. Should this be the case, technology can be a real lifesaver!

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