In today’s digital age, screen time has become an inevitable part of our lives. From smartphones and tablets to computers and TVs, screens surround us and our children everywhere we go. Majority of us grew up with limited exposure to technology when we were children ourselves. And there is a widespread underlying belief that screens and technology are harmful, especially to the developing brains of young children. As parents, it can feel challenging to figure out what is the best solution as we ourselves do not have any models for parenting in a digital era. Yet, due to the inescapable nature of screens taking over the world we live in, it’s essential to navigate our own and our children’s relationship with technology mindfully and consciously. So, let’s explore some strategies and considerations for finding a healthy balance in the digital realm.
- Understanding the Impact of Screen Time:
It’s crucial to understand the potential impact of screen time on children, both positive and negative. Explore research findings on the effects of excessive screen time on children’s physical health, mental well-being, cognitive development, and social interactions. Awareness of these effects serves as a foundation for conscious decision-making.
- Setting Screen Time Limits:
One of the key tools of Conscious parenting is establishing clear boundaries, gently yet firmly. Inviting age-appropriate collaboration and discussion around limits, such as time-based restrictions, device-free zones, and designated family screen time are a great place to start. Putting devices to bed outside of the bedroom can help support boundaries. Open two-way communication, involving children in the process to offer them autonomy and responsibility, and adjusting rules as they grow and develop are extremely important.
- Quality Over Quantity:
Let’s shift the focus from the quantity of screen time to its quality. I encourage parents to prioritize educational content, age-appropriate programming, and interactive experiences. There is great value in engaging in activities that stimulate creativity, critical thinking, and social skills development.
- Mindful Media Consumption:
We are what we consume and this includes media consumption. Conscious parenting involves being aware of the media content children consume. Commonsensemedia.org is a helpful tool to determine the quality of the content our children are consuming. Engage in watching shows/movies or playing video games together as much as possible, offering discussions around what messages are being portrayed and how they may or may not align with your family’s values.
- Leading by Example:
Children learn through observation, so conscious parenting requires modeling healthy screen time habits. If we are finding our children attached to their screens, it may be time for parents to reflect on their own media consumption patterns and assess whether they align with their desired parenting values. Engaging children in off the screen activities requires us to get off our own screens first, especially when we are trying to break a habit.
- Balancing Screen Time with Other Activities:
Screens may be unavoidable and fun, but consider what the excess of it is costing us? What else could we and our children be doing that would add more value to our lives and help maintain a well-rounded lifestyle? Offering exciting and on going invitations for other activities that offer face to face interactions such as family walks, playing tag together, doing a craft together, reading together, sharing a hobby such as gardening, or cycling can be a powerful distraction from screens that fosters deeper connection that our children crave. Ask yourself what activities these can be and how I can incorporate them into daily routines?
- Creating Tech-Free Rituals:
Collaborate to create tech-free rituals and spaces within the home. Instead of criticizing screen times, focus on and highlight the benefits of device-free mealtimes, bedtime routines, and family outings. Try out alternative ways to unwind and relax, such as mindfulness exercises including but not limited to meditation, journaling, tapping, and/or coloring books, and other low key activities such as storytelling, audiobooks, and listening to relaxing music.
Conscious parenting invites us to be intentional in how we live our lives, including how we engage with screens. By educating ourselves and our children about the impact of screens, setting limits, choosing quality content, and modeling, parents can guide their children to have a healthy relationship with technology. Conscious Parenting can help empower us and our children to thrive both online and offline.
- What is my own relationship with screens?
- What are the kids seeking through engaging with screens?
- What’s the underlying unmet need?