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How to have the tech time talk with your kids

“Megan, get off the tablet. NOW!” – Unknown

Are you tired of nagging your kids to get off their screens? Do you find it hard to explain to your child why they need to get off their devices?

When it comes to limiting screen time, most kids don’t get why it makes sense to introduce screen time software.

So here are some of our favourite tips to help you have this particular tech talk with your kids.

#1 Explain why you are looking at screen time software

Kids these days know the basics when it comes to cyberbullying, dodgy websites and inappropriate messages. What they may NOT understand is why you’re choosing to install screen time software on their device now.

Am I being punished? Am I being spied on? Are my communications private anymore? All questions your child is probably thinking.

For many parents, though, the key driver to screen time management is just about keeping their kids safe and making sure they don’t spend ALL their time on a screen. That’s why parents often look for a solution that has more than just screen time capabilities.

So, when you’re sitting down with your kids, explain why you would like this tool and how it will help the both of you.

Need an example? Try this:

“Michael, I’d like us to try this app just to help us better manage our screen time as a family. That way, I’m not constantly nagging you about being on your screen too much. I respect that you’re the user of this device, though, and because I trust you I wanted to talk to you about how this app can work for both of us.”

#2 Explain the rules the app will support

The next most important step is to agree with your child the shared rules for using the app.

Make a list of rules that you’d like to apply to screen time when it comes to your kid’s devices. Ask them to help you whittle them down to the ones you agree are the most important.  (Too many rules too soon sets you both up for failure).  By giving them this responsibility, you are showing them that you respect & trust their decision.

Some examples include:

  1. Devices switched off between 5pm – 7pm for homework and dinner time.
  2. Apps to be turned off during study time: Facebook, Instagram and games.
  3. No screen time until all daily chores are completed.
  4. Maximum screen time for the day is 2 hours (excluding study time)..
  5. Devices switched off by 9pm.

These are just a few ideas. There are many different rules you and your kids could decide are more suited to your family! It’s just about giving them a say in the matter.

For a few more ideas, take a look at prepping your home for screen time success.

RELATED: Seeking screen-free activities to keep the kids entertained?

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Search the Habyts activity finder!

#3 Start with descriptive praise, then teach them responsible device habits

We know, all of the above is easier said than done. Tantrums, your child’s friends having free rein on their devices and a general sense of entitlement are possible roadblocks all of us as parents have to deal with.

It’s why here at Habyts we put such an emphasis on descriptive praise. (If your child is a gamer, we’ve got some great examples of positive phrases to use here.)

Positive words encourage positive actions, which in turn encourage positive behaviour. After all, we want your kids to have a good relationship with you and their devices.

Let them know that this tool is about helping the two of you build trust. It isn’t about you being in control of their device. It’s actually about them being in control of their device and not a “slave to the screen”. The app is simply there to help you, as a family, achieve that.

By giving them an explanation that puts your kids at ease and by including them in the conversation, you’re a lot less likely to have the tantrums and outright refusal to accept a new screen time app.

#4 What to do if your child won’t even entertain the idea of a conversation

If you’re having trouble even getting them to engage in a conversation, don’t worry! You’re not alone. Here’s a great article from Psychology Today to give you some starting points:

  1. Express enthusiastic interest in your child’s interests – even if these are not the interests you would choose – such as the games they are playing.
  2. Acknowledge their frustrations, disappointments, and grievances. Get to know what they do and don’t like about social media.
  3. Share personal stories. Sometimes kids forget you’re human too!  Share your own struggle with managing screen time.
  4. When there is a recurring problem in your family life, enlist your child in problem-solving.
There you have it!

Use these tips to start your family discussion around devices.  Then you can revisit the idea of introducing screen time management (and points one to three) afterwards.

Ready to start bringing screen time management into your family? Grab our guide on how to prepare your kids for screen time success.

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