“Old ways won’t open new doors.”
How many times have you tried to tame this family issue: too much screen time?
There are many old-school parenting techniques you can try…
…but few techniques truly have a lasting impact.
Trust us, we know!
All too often, you try out a new tool or technique…
…do your homework and rally the family…
…only to find yourself right back where you started (just a little more confused and frustrated than before).
It’s not you.
Traditional parenting techniques of old simply don’t cut it when it comes to tackling screen time.
Our kids are digital natives who have grown up with technology. It’s second nature.
As such, they expect things to be fluid, intuitive, and above all, simple.
And this is especially the case where technology and screen time is concerned.
So we thought we’d spare you the aggro by exploring five old-school approaches to taming too much screen time…and why they just don’t cut it today.
Timers and Rotas
What better way to limit screen time than with a timer?
That way you can put those tough-to-implement screen time limits into practice.
But while timers are great for measuring blocks of time, they can’t constantly track it.
If you have more than one child, you’re going to need more than one timer.
If they can find an extra 5, 10 or 20 minutes they will.
And remember, you’ve got to keep track of how much time they’ve spent on screens, and how much they have left.
“Aha, but I have a rota” you say.
But do you honestly have the time – and the will – to constantly monitor how your kids are spending theirs?
And is your rota flexible enough to handle last-minute change of plans that are part and parcel of everyday family life, for one or more kids?
What about when they’re away from home? Are you happy for them to have unlimited screen time around friends or relatives?
Timers and Rotas have their place, but they require commitment and discipline, from parents and kids alike.
The more kids you have, the more complicated they become to manage.
And let’s be fair, kids aren’t the only ones having trouble managing time online.
RELATED: End screen time struggles, homework hassles and chore wars!
Rewards have been a staple of parenting for years.
Whether it’s an approving word, a snack with mum, choosing where to sit in the car, or an extended curfew, rewards or privileges are earned.
And while some debate the role of reward systems, you can’t argue with the trusty reward chart for tracking them.
Or can you?
Historically, the reward chart has existed in a number of forms – using marbles, stickers, beads or simply on paper.
But reward chart falls short when it comes to busy family life.
Did you remember to add the points you promised your child in the supermarket? How many points was that again?
And should you take your marble jar on holiday?
And don’t forget reward charts don’t just track points – they also record when privileges are redeemed.
Have they already had their bonus screen time? Or had their turn in the front seat? Or their day out with mum or dad?
As a result, another well-intentioned reward system fades away. Credibility is lost. Kids become sceptical.
If the secret to an effective reward system is consistency – for both you and your child – then physical reward charts have their limitations in a busy digital age.
Nagging and Threats
We’ve all been there…
No one likes nagging or threats, least of all your kids.
But it’s the regular fall-back for many of us when faced with messy rooms, unfinished homework, or neglected chores.
Most parents end up nagging at least four times until they threaten “or else” (which usually means banning devices).
Nagging and threats provide negative reinforcement – rarely work – and show you are not in control.
Things can get emotionally charged very quickly. And it hurts your relationship with your child!
In fact, nagging and threats have never worked particularly well – but they work less effectively today for two reasons.
- Societal norms have changed. We communicate differently – for example – employees don’t just take orders at face value. Our kids live in a world where it’s more accepted to question authority.
- Busy parents lack the tools to apply family rules with consistency. Or to enforce them at all (a particularly good example is screen time and online homework assignments).
Bottom-line: things have changed.
And when it comes to screen time, when you nag your child to get off one device, chances are they’ll just pick up another!
Battery Time Limits
We alluded to this in our previous post.
Some families limit screen time by the device’s battery life.
Sounds simple, right?
Charge your child’s device every week and once it runs out, no more screen time.
In terms of limiting too much screen time, it’s actually quite effective.
But it’s oversimplicity is also it’s downfall.
For example, this approach only really works with devices your child owns (imagine trying to ‘police’ battery life on a shared tablet)…
…or on non-essential devices (if your child has a smartphone, you’ll want to ensure it has charge for emergencies).
In the meantime, device battery life is improving year-on-year…
…so, while battery lifetime limits work well in the short-term, they’re not a long-term solution.
RELATED: End screen time struggles, homework hassles and chore wars!
Some families try to go cold turkey on screen time.
Rather than managing screen time and device use, they ban it completely.
But how will kids develop the practical habits to manage screen time once they move on to university and adult life?
We don’t want our kids ruled by tech – but we also don’t want them left behind in a digital world.
If you do choose to go down this route, banning technology during certain parts of the day or week is far easier than an outright ban.
In fact, regular tech detoxes are a great idea – take a look at these 50 ways to do a family detox.
And remember, what goes for your kids must apply to you too. You can’t go enforcing “Tech-Free Time” while you’re busy on Facebook!
While full-on 24/7 screen free living has some appeal, it’s no easy feat.
What happens when your child’s homework requires the computer? Or YOUR work?
Just look at the obstacles Shanon hit with her 30 DAY SCREEN TIME DIET.
So, rather than go cold turkey, many parents find that reducing daily screen time allowance or implementing weekly screen free days or evenings is a more effective solution.
Here at Habyts, we make no excuses that we favour screen time solutions over traditional tools and techniques. After all, we built our own.
They take the nagging, cajoling and hassle out of screen time (and more besides).
The best solutions monitor screen time across multiple devices – meaning one hour really is one hour – all from a single app.
And they differentiate between play and study time, employ safe browsing, and enable you to set your kids’ tasks (and remind them when they are due).
OUR HONEST BIAS: If you don’t have a tech solution yet, give Habyts a try!
In our next blog, we’ll explore the five essential selection criteria to consider when choosing a screen time solution.
Have you had success with some of the traditional techniques studied in this blog? And where did they let you down? Discuss in the comments below!