I get this question at least three times a week; How much screen time should I let my children have? Should I only give it on weekends? How much time should they spend on Fortnight or YouTube?
I find myself saying the same thing I say all the time, “what is the goal?” If the goal is to get your children to do other things then have them work toward the goal of earning screen time and stop making it about the phone/computer or gaming system.
Time management is about balance. We show kids the importance of balance by being in balance ourselves and leading by example. Are you in balance on using your time wisely?
A great family exercise is to make a pie chart that is called “free time.” Free time is time when you are not at school or your job. Next, start breaking your time up. How much time do you spend on homework? How much time for sports/clubs? How much time at the gym? How much time for chores/household? How much downtime? How are you using your downtime?
Once the breakdown is done look at the pie chart and ask yourself if you in balance. Are you getting your downtime, are you getting your movement, reading, social time? What does the pie chart tell you about how you’re using your time?
I then ask everyone to draw your ideal pie chart. You will see some funny things! I had a 12-year-old that listed in his ideal pie chart school, homework Fortnight, and bed. This was his ideal. I said to him that he gets one of those ideal days a month. ONE day a month where he can live his ideal and the rest of the month he must live in balance. It was funny because his mother looked at me like I was nuts. She asked, “You are going to let him play a video game for the whole free time on one day?’ to which I said, “yes, try it for a month.”
The family came back the next month and everyone was doing better. As a family they were spending more time together. The kids were calling out the parents on their device usage and how they were out of balance. The mother made a comment that since her son took ONE day a month to live his ideal, they were no longer in a constant struggle about how much screen time the rest of the month. When the son is in balance, the family fighting was minimal.
As parents we make the device the most important thing. We limit it. We take devices away as a punishment. We are constantly on our children for the time they spend on them. Then, we wonder why devices become so all-consuming in the eyes of our children? We as parents through our actions give devices their power. Setting limits should not be about “keeping them off devices” it should instead be about keeping our children in balance. That is the goal!
Happy Pie Charting!!!