Real Life Stories of ChangeManaging Your Child's Screen Time – Lucian Teo
How can parents set healthy boundaries for their children on their screen time? Lucian Teo, a father working in technology, shares his advice.It starts at home
As a father of three children from 3.5 to 12 years old, Lucian naturally worries about how media and technology are impacting his children, for example: if the content that they are viewing online is appropriate for their age, whether or not they are communicating to strangers online, and if they spending too much time on devices.
“My children are young, and I've not encountered excessive web use. But as someone who was formerly hooked on online games, I'll most probably face this issue with my children very, very soon.” said Lucian.
Not one to stand by and do nothing for what could be an unpleasant development, he and his wife set up these boundaries to manage their children's internet usage:
- Limiting screen time and what devices can and should be used for
- Online content can only be watched on the television set, in view of everyone
- Who the children converse on the mobile phones should be made known to either parent
“These measures work because our children are still young, and we need to constantly review them as they grow older and have different needs,” he said. “Lines are different for different ages, and for different children.”Leading by example
Lucian's method of guiding his children's use of media and technology is based on his own experience. As both he and his wife have social media accounts, and with Lucian being quite active on them, he makes it a point to let his children know what he's doing, hoping that his behaviour will stick with his children as they grow into teens.
“The greatest challenge for us is to use digital media in an exemplary fashion so that we provide constructive models for our children to follow.”Making hard decisions
However, it's not always smooth sailing when popular games like Pokémon Go and other online crazes come into the picture. Lucian's 8-year-old son felt left out when many of his friends were talking about the game, while he was barred from playing it.
“We didn't have any heated standoffs. But it was a lesson for parent and child that some decisions, while right, are hard,” he recalled.Tips for reducing your child's screen time
While Lucian believes that “time on the internet” isn't a bad thing, it can become an issue when children become addicted to a single task – be it logging onto social media, watching online videos, or gaming – on a computer or mobile device.
For that, he has a ready list of tips, as he prepares for his children potentially facing excessive screen time when they are older .
Tip #1: Let go of your initial reaction
When you see your child spending too much time on the internet, it can be easy to react in anger or frustration. In order to understand our children, we need to have empathy – it helps to think back to when you were crazy about your small vices like kite-flying or playing with marbles.
Tip #2: Sit down with your child and find out what your child likes
Find out why they spend so much time online, and why they are into the game or habit. You might discover that it is really interesting and compelling. This is the first step to building a closer relationship with your child and your child may be more willing to confide in you if they are dealing with addiction to the internet or other issues.
Tip #3: Reinforce the good
Online games can teach resource management, teamwork and many other good attributes. Let them know their choices aren't entirely bad.
Tip #4: Inform them what they're missing out on
Let them know that by spending too much of their time on one activity, their family members might be hurt, and their friendships may be neglected. This is not a guilt-trip, but an affirmation of their worth to people around them.
Tip #5: Take steps to reduce their habit
With that mutual understanding, work out tangible steps that both sides agree on to reduce their habit. Ensure that their time is substituted with constructive and engaging activities. Even by taking time to work with them on their schoolwork, your presence can make it easier.
Tip #6: Take a break from parenting
It can be difficult and tiring, but there will always be times when you need a break as a parent. However, when we show that we've tried, it can go a long way.
Ultimately, parenthood is about building relationships with our children, and not solely about getting them to do what we want.