By Tara Dale, LISW-S
The holidays are a joyful and busy time full of visits with family, new gadgets to use and, of course, winter break from school.
The novelty of holiday gifts and extended time for use of items such as cell phones, computers, tablets and game consoles without the structure of the school day can alter many kids’ daily routines. This can create a challenging transition back to school after the holidays for kids and teens who enjoyed the extra free time to chat and browse on social media, indulge in favorite TV shows and play video games. Here are a few strategies on how to allow screen time but not let it take over your household and cause additional stress for your family after the holidays.
- Talk to your kids about screen time. Explain the benefits of having balance throughout their day. If they’re mature enough, ask them how much time they believe they should have each day, and come to a reasonable agreement together on time limits for screen time. Be clear to explain time limits ahead before use of electronics.
- Consider your expectations of acceptable behaviors for your kids. It’s important to identify what behaviors are expected (ie. “ground rules”) related to household and academic responsibilities. Screen time should NOT be used to threaten your kids to comply with your expectations. Although, it should be calmly and clearly explained as a privilege and as all privileges, it can be earned and lost based on their ability to keep up with their daily responsibilities and behavioral expectations.
◦ Kids should clearly understand how they can earn and lose screen time prior to use. It is important to be consistent with rewards and consequences so that kids know what to expect and how to meet those standards (this will help avoid frustration for all family members).
• Help your kids identify other enjoyable activities to participate in when not using electronics. Many kids and teens view electronics as a social outlet, hobby and coping skill. When they have reached their screen time limit, explore additional activities to help them feel well, have fun and stay connected with family and friends. Be creative with these ideas! Once kids are reminded that they can have fun without screens, there will be less frustration when separating from them.
Additional helpful tips to consider:
- Be calm and consistent when explaining and enforcing expectations.
- Create a daily schedule so kids know what to expect for each day.
- Have kids complete their daily responsibilities BEFORE using electronics.
- Use a timer to help keep track of agreed upon time limits.
- Set limits for yourself with your own screen usage. Kids are more likely to understand and follow
your expectations when they see you modeling those behaviors too!