Conversation Starter: "How Much Screen Time Do You Think You Should Have?"Feb 20, 2021
Plenty of parents are unhappy about how much screen time their kids have. We would rather our kids were outside, socializing, or reading.
This is especially concerning during a pandemic, when so many children are spending all day in front of screens for school, unable to play sports or socialize with their friends, and have much more limited options for how they spend their time.
But here's the interesting thing: If you asked your kids how much screen time you think they should have, it might be less than you imagine, particularly if you help them connect the dots between what their behavior is and the outcomes they want for their lives.
Instead of jumping right in, though, back into the question. Start by asking them some questions about what they want their lives to look like:
"Do you want to go through your days healthy and feeling strong and energetic? If so, how much exercise do you think you should be getting?"
"Do you want to have good friends? If so, what can you do now to make sure you are nurturing those friendships?"
"Do you want to have a job that you love? If so, do you think you should study and read so that you are a knowledgable person and keep the doors open for college, in case that is the road you want to follow?"
Most kids want what is best for themselves, and when you direct a conversation about the outcomes of their lives, they will likely agree that they shouldn't spend 16 hours a day playing video games.
Beyond that, you can work with your kids to establish some rules around screen time. When they have told you what they want for their lives, you can let them know that you want to help keep them accountable. You might say something like:
"While I think ___ hours/minutes of screen time seems a little excessive, I can see why that might be acceptable during this quarantine. Why don't we make an agreement that I will stop harassing you about screen time as long as you can demonstrate your commitment to all of these other areas of your life? If I see that you are falling behind, I will remind you to spend time with your friends, stay healthy and get exercise, study, help around the house, and spend quality time with your family members so that you can stay on track toward getting the life that you desire."
When you approach conversations about screen time like this, you will have "buy in" from your kids. They will have communicated what they want their lives to look like and you and your children can work together so that all of the areas of their lives are nurtured. They might still be spending more time on screens than you would like, but at least you know they are working toward a full life that includes a focus on health, relationships, and a fulfilling career.
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