What does a conversation about screen time look like in your home? Take the guesswork out of navigating a new plan.
Talking to your kids about celebs, sports, Snapchat? Not a problem—and sometimes hilarious. Talking to your kids about limiting their screen time? Hard pass. Show of hands if you’ve ever argued with your kids about screen time. Yep, you’re not alone. Most parents deal with this issue, even if their thoughts on appropriate limits are wildly different. So how do you talk to your kids about this hot topic, especially tweens and teens literally left to their own devices? We thought we’d let you in on a few pointers (with the help of pros who actually get it) for making the conversation about your new device, and screen time in general, less hard and even perhaps insightful. Here goes.
Come up with a doable plan.
“Consistency is so, so important,” says Dr. Catherine Pearlman, a.k.a. The Family Coach. One hour of social a day? Weekends only? Every family situation is different, right? Your screen time plan may look totally different from the parents of toddlers next door but sticking to a plan is key (which is where Circle can help). Need a roadmap? The American Academy of Pediatrics has one (like no devices at meal time) and a handy tool for working up a media plan that feels right to you.
Walk the talk.
Kids are great at modeling our behavior—and even better at pointing out when it doesn’t live up to our own standards. And who doesn’t need a gut check once in a while on their own screen time? #Guilty. “Before you even begin the conversation, look at your own usage of electronics and media and make some changes for yourself,” says Dr. Pearlman. “When you are ready to meet with your kids you are going to be much more confident in that conversation.”
Schedule a family sesh.
“Whatever you decide, write it down and have a family meeting,” says Dr. Pearlman. Before diving into the rules, kick off your conversation with why you’re setting new limits. Craving more face-to-face (vs. face-to-phone) time with them? Becoming more mindful of mindless scrolling and its impact on your sleep and mood? Woke up one day and realized the rules you once set have since gone out the window? Whatever your why is, explaining it to your kids will help them warm up to the idea and make sense of the change. Once you cover the why, walk them through the how with a breakdown of your media plan and how Circle will help you balance it all with customized Time Limits, Filters, Bedtimes and Rewards (emphasis on Rewards) for your family.
Let kids have a say too.
Digital devices are and will continue to be a fact of life for our kids—and that’s not a bad thing. Imagine a world before Google (we can’t even) or texting, navigating, scheduling and sharing through our devices. Some screen time can be beneficial in fact for a slew of reasons. “There may be valid reasons why kids need to be on their phones during certain times and let them have a dialogue about it,” says Dr. Pearlman. Case in point: homework. If they need to collaborate with other students or access the Internet to get it done, you may want to block only social media at that time.
Turn FOMO into JOMO!
"Empathize with them,” says Dr. Pearlman, “and say, ‘You know what? I tried to get rid of my phone at bedtime and I also really struggled. I know that you're going to be sad to be without it or it's going to be uncomfortable when your friends are on and you're not. I hear you.’” Then drop some knowledge on the potential joys of missing out, like teens who use digital media less than an hour a day reported feeling happier than their more plugged-in peers. Reported benefits of better sleep and grades thanks to digital downtime can also be that spoonful of sugar they need to digest the new plan.
Offer high fives all around.
As you start to notice positive changes (kids reading, kids playing outside, kids cooking!) after setting consistent limits, offer up some praise. “Absolutely, give them that verbal reward,” says Dr. Pearlman. Circle’s Reward feature can help too, allowing you to extend online time limits for that digital pat on the back.
Check in with your kids too to make sure your plan continues to make sense for your family—having an open-ended conversation will help everyone stay on course toward healthier digital habits, leaving more room for fun times IRL.