Kids are attracted to bright, shiny, attention-consuming screens from the time they’re born. They see everyone else using phones, computers, tablets, and TVs all the time, and they naturally want to get in on the action. But, if we let kids make their own decisions around screen time, it wouldn’t be pretty—they’d be sleep deprived, antisocial, and out of touch in no time.
Parents can guide their kids toward healthy habits with resources like Circle, which helps families by managing time and content online. Plus, we’ve found that these six principles are key to shaping the conversation about screen time with young children.
Not all content is equal. As parents, we don’t worry about certain types of screen time, like using video chat to share stories with Grandpa. But, streaming music videos for hours on end is another thing entirely. Letting kids know early on that technology can be used for good or bad gives context to the structure that their parents place in the home.
Relationships start offline. Using the Internet to keep up with friends is common, and it’s important that kids know how online interactions are different from time spent face to face. The most important social time happens offline, and that isn’t just true for kids, but for everybody! So, teach your kids about a healthy communication style online, and that important conversations shouldn’t take place on a screen.
Bedtime is for sleeping, not browsing. Anytime a phone, laptop, or tablet is being used behind a closed door, it’s not likely to be a positive experience for a child. That’s doubly true for bedtime browsing, when kids should be recuperating for another day of fun and learning, but instead are zoning out in front of a brightly backlit screen until they pass out from complete exhaustion. Devices don’t live in bed, or plugged in on a bedside table, or anywhere accessible to a sleepy kid.
Screen time discussions happen often. Families talk about technology, the Internet, screen time, and social media. These things are not private or unchecked, they’re a common point of conversation between parents and kids. If it’s a routine topic, your kids won’t feel awkward when they have a question about something they’ve seen or heard about online. In the same way, parents won’t feel uncomfortable having important conversations about screens.
Dinner time is family time. Every family has that sacred time when devices stay in pockets. Maybe it’s during dinner, on a hike outdoors, or cheering for your favorite athletes; either way, these are fun points of connection in a busy family’s schedule. It might help to lay down the law when it comes to these special occasions by banning all screens from sight, so that family time really is family time.
Put the screen away when you’re talking in person. This last principle is really a capstone to everything else. Kids should learn that being present is more important than being “connected.” It’s not just rude to look away from someone while talking to them, but it’s also a missed relational opportunity.
It’s important to note that parenting young kids involves presenting the kinds of behaviors you’d like to instill in them. If you don’t have healthy boundaries around screen time, your kids will inherit that tendency from you. So, be open, be honest, and be humble when working with your kids’ screen time, and you’ll find that they’re more capable than many adults give them credit for.
Circle lets you manage Internet use on all of your family’s devices right from your mobile phone. Set app-specific Time Limits, age-appropriate Filters, BedTimes for each family member, and even Pause the Internet with the push of a button.