Screen time discussions often feel like scream time in our house! It seems to be about wanting more and getting less! I always want the boys to have more time actively engaged in conversation, more time chatting with friends and more time playing sport.
They always want more time playing X-Box, chatting with friends whilst playing X-Box and playing sport on the X-Box!
So this holidays I was determined to negotiate electronic media time and avoid the nag factor! Armed with information from a local parenting group I started to put into action the advice from their workshop.
Top of the list was the ‘Acceptable Use’ agreement. The key here was to negotiate with the boys, and get their input. Doesn’t sound too hard really…?
I started my campaign for less screen time by extolling the virtues of keeping active, meeting friends and getting outdoors. The trouble is that these kids could read me like a book! They were so savvy at recognising a persuasive argument (thanks Naplan!) that they listened impassively and waited for their cue to counter argue.
And they counter argue they did! The crux of which was comparison. Comparing our time limits, comparing the types of games and comparing where they could play.
In the comparison test we failed.
So it seems that the boys are hard done by. Hmmph.
After talking to their friends during the holidays, and reading lots school holiday recounts over my teaching years, I think they are probably right. We are a bit restrictive with the time they get on electronic media.
So should be we change to get in line with the social shift in screen time allowance?
This one is a tough call.
If we’re too out of touch, then the boys will head over to the houses of their friends whose parents are more relaxed and spend their time gaming there. This raises some potential issues –
- That the problem has just been shifted onto someone else’s doorstep.
- They have unlimited screen time.
- I have no-idea what content they’re accessing.
- The potential to egg each other on to engage in less appropriate activities online.
My boys are not only limited to the amount of screen time they have but also where they can use the internet in the house. We don’t have TVs in the bedrooms (ours or theirs) and the internet has to be used in shared areas. Devices are also stored in a central location overnight so bedrooms are device free zones.
These decisions are based on common sense, in the hope they increase the boy’s accountability, to themselves and to us! But of course, if these limits drive the boys away to play elsewhere, they are worse than useless. So it’s a dilemma…
But is there any evidence to back up my so-called common sense assumptions?
Well today on Twitter I found some…
(and yes the irony of finding it on social media is not lost on me!)
We have been keeping devices out of the bedroom overnight over concerns about the impact of WiFi on sleep. New evidence has confirmed what common sense had already told us, that intense electronic activity before bed is linked to sleep disturbances in teenagers.
Well, duh, that sounds obvious! But maybe that’s because as adults we have learned that having a highly active brain before bed makes it hard to shut-down or switch-off. But do our kids know that?
Our kids are growing up in a device centred world, which offers amazing opportunities for them. However, it’s up to me as a parent to get up to date knowledge on how to tackle critical issues and recognise the potential negative impacts of screen time.
I must have the courage of my convictions,
(but it helps if my convictions are based on evidence).
So these holidays I kept some of my critical limits in place, but relented on how much time could be spent in-front of a screen. The boys thought it was great, they had more freedom to play and less embarrassing rules to explain to friends, which led to more friends gaming at our house.
Screen time had its moments but it didn’t always turn into scream time! Now to re-negotiate that ‘Acceptable Use’ agreement for term time…ahhh!