Setting Screen Time Boundaries
Television, tablets, phones and gamers.
Work, play, school, home.
Screens are everywhere, and similar to fire they can be both a tool and a trap depending how you use them.
Clicking into gear of a new year and getting settled into some new structure after holiday life, this is the perfect time to set some screen boundaries for yourself and your home.
I have had a ”screen time blog” in my drafts for over a year. The research behind how much kids watch and how it affects …well everything. The damage it does physcially and psychologically is nauseating. But every time I‘ve tried over the past few months to press publish, I stop because I never want to add gasoline to the, specifically, “mom guilt” world. There is enough judgment out there, and I don’t want anything I write to feel that I’m adding to that dialogue. I have had my days when Daniel Tiger saved my sanity, and a Super Simple Songs literally saved the day. TV can be a wonderful tool. But equally I want to dismantle the narrative that screens are our savior.
For young and old, screen time is a slippery slope. What starts as “just one episode“ can turn into 3 hours of show after show. What starts as a one time “just give her the phone” at the restaurant, turns into a habitual dining ritual.
So here’s my suggestion. Take inventory Of your interactions with screens.
1. Amount of time. How much screen time are you/your children daily getting? 2. Passwords/Privacy
Who has access and accountability?
3. Content What shows/games/commercials are you letting educate, I mean entertain? Look past “ratings”. What attitudes are being showed? What sexual content is being normalized? What lessons are being taught?
BONUS ROUND FOR THE BRAVE : Ask your spouse or roommate or kid their thoughts on your screen time. What do they think about how much you spend on your phone or in front of your tv. This may be a big trigger conversation, not one to just spring in someone. These kind of habits we have run deep and many times hold roots of unhealthy emotions and coping mechanism. But in a safe place, they may be able to really help you in ways you didn’t see. Got the inventory? Okay, now, let’s set some screen time rules.
Write them down. Explain them. Keep them.
I’ll give some examples for adults as well as our Cirkles Family Screen Time Boundaries below.
Adult : Picking one or two of these is a great starting place.
*Say it with me: My screen is a way to enjoy entertainment, not a place to escape my reality.“
Social Media after I brush my teeth. (Or drink my coffee, or read my Bible, or…you get the idea) (Scrolling in your bed while you “wake up” is an emotional/anxiety/productivity disaster on every level. )
Driving is for listening not looking. (Scrolling while driving is the new drinking and driving. It’s INCREDIBLY dangerous. Podcast, music, talking with a friend are better option.)
Take Email notifications off your phone if you can. (If you can look at it later it will prevent you thinking about it during your off time.)
Pay for only one streaming subscription per season. (This decreases decision fatigue, saves money and limits entertainment intake)
When eating with family and friends, the phone goes away. (No phone at the table is a lost art of curtesy. Choose to go against the grain and be present in conversation.)
Give your screen a bedtime. (You put your children to sleep at a certain time. Do the same for your phone.)
If you're waiting, count to 30 before pulling out your phone. (If you are waiting for an appointment, or on a subway bus, try to reroute the addictive urge to pick up your phone by delaying looking at your screen. Look at the people, the decorations, the window, etc.
And on and on and on. You get the idea. You’ll need to custom create these boundaries for you, but hopefully this sparked something to think about.
Moving on to family:
This has changed and will change from season to season of our family life. Our big philosophy is :
- Entertainment is something to be enjoyed together so : no tablets and no tv in bedrooms. - Sunshine before screen time.
“Our Family Screen Rules”
30 min of tv during sister’s morning nap.
60 min cartoons on Saturday with Dad.
Extra screen time is given by mom or dad if we all watch together as a family. (This happens rarely, but for instance a family movie night after dinner).
Praise and worship praise parties are unlimited, but you can’t sit and stare. You must have an instrument or be engaged with your body.
Cowboys Game Days means tv is on for the entire game.
Sick days call for extra cartoons.
I could go on forever about this topic. I think we have to, quite honestly, because we all are navigating the new digital world together (especially parents). For me the big take away is don’t mindlessly do anything. Set your boundaries, enjoy the joy of healthy entertainment, and carry on with peace.
Praying Peace and Wisdom Over You,
*Don‘t forget… The Cirkles are Cheering You On!