Parents worldwide are seeking strategies to end screen time battles and live a full life with their children – this is how to do so using positive parenting techniques.
Screen time addiction. How much screen time is too much screen time? How can I help my child spend less time staring at the screen and more time playing outside? When my son has too much screen time, he stops communicating; what can I do? I can’t take all the screens anymore; I miss my children.
Can you relate to any of these statements? Do they sound like thoughts or conversations you’ve had lately? I get it, and I feel you. After a long pandemic, many parents worldwide allowed more screen freedom than they would have if the pandemic hadn’t quarantined life.
It happened in my family as well; the rules we’ve had before the pandemic were gone with the wind, and as we faced the return of the welcome routine, I found myself facing children who wanted nothing but their iPads.
Here are the real reasons for these hardships and how I chose to face them using positive parenting, Mindfulness, and Nonviolent Communication strategies.
A Real Look on Life in 2021
I remember growing up; when my mom needed a recipe she didn’t have – she’d call her mom or a friend. When we needed directions, we used an actual map or asked others for guidance. I remember the excitement of receiving a letter. I can connect to how I felt when notes were left at our doorstep or when my friends just arrived to ask if I could come out and play. I remember the smell of a new book, and I remember the ink marks newspapers left on my fingers.
All this does no longer exist. Instead, we have our phones.
We are on our phones all day long. So many people (myself included) check their notifications even before we’ve brushed our teeth.
This is the world we live in, and this is what we model to our children. Moms, Dads, let’s hold this with compassion – screens are not all bad, AND they are here to stay.
Why do Children LOVE SCREENS SO MUCH?
All screens, be it a game, a TV show, an app, or social media, meet a variety of our children’s (and our!) needs. Belonging, curiosity, success, value, power, love – all these come to us magically when we engage in our favorite screen-related activities. While this had been true for a decade now, the last two years have increased the meaning of connections made across screens and gave us all a feeling of life.
Moreover, whatever happens behind the screen – stays there. So when you lose – no one has to know; you can choose to share success only! There’s no embarrassment, no feeling of actual failure. A screen is a safe place for children to experiment and explore. It is a place of emotional security because one doesn’t need to deal with the world around him when immersed in the screen. In addition, the knowledge, fun, excitement, and constant renewal serve a great deal of emotional fulfillment for children and teens. If you’re a child or a teen – there are endless reasons to love screen time.
Why do We Surrender to Children’s Pleas for Screens?
The following statement is one that I want you to hold with empathy and compassion: you need your freedom. You need your quiet time; you need to be kids-free now and then, and these feelings, too, increased significantly in the past two years. You’re not alone. As parents worldwide have lost more and more of their freedom and individuality, the inner desire to regain these brought many to weaver screen rules so that they can use this time to breathe.
If you did it too – don’t feel guilty. You did what you had to do to survive. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t flip things around 🙂
So now that we know why are screens so alluring for our children and why we allowed more freedom than we’d wanted – it’s time to see how we can end screen time struggles without a fight 🙂
3 Steps You Can Take Today to End the Endless Screen Time Battles
- Stop Antagonizing Technology: “the screens run your life,” “I can’t stand seeing you staring at the screen all day long,” “hey – do you even remember there are human beings who live here together with you”? “there’s a whole world around you”!! Do you know all these sentences that you’re constantly saying that show your dismay with your child’s relationship to the screen? Stop saying them. These sentences only work to close your child’s heart and undermine your parental authority. Imagine how you feel when you say these sentences – this is how your child feels when he hears them, and this is why he ignores them (and you). Instead – give voice and presence to what really lives within you – you want more connection, more communication with your children. You miss them. You want to see them together, doing things, laughing. You want a house that feels alive. This is what you should start communicating – messages that open your children’s hearts, that connect you; messages that make them feel loved.
- Don’t Fear Your Child’s Reactions: if you’re allowing your child more screen time than you’d like, if you’re feeling uncomfortable about the amount of time they spend on the screen – don’t let it continue just to avoid the anger or frustration your actions might bring. What you’re holding is a concern for your children’s future and a desire for connected family life, your children probably can’t see it yet, but you can explain this to them. You can be firm and loving. You can set rules and limits. Positive parenting doesn’t mean permissiveness.
- Don’t Make Use of Power or Force: don’t take their screens away or use them as rewards or punishment. Avoid making one-way rules, limits, and decisions. These practices only work to create more tension, more lies, more hiding, and increase your children’s desire for additional screen time. Instead – work together to find the rules and limits that work for all of you. It is possible to shift our focus from ending screen time to finding balance in family life – because this is what it’s really about – isn’t it?
The Truth about Screen Time Addiction
Screen time addiction, just like any other addiction, by the way, is created when there’s a void to fill. Addictions come about when life feels empty, dull, boring, pointless, when we don’t experience excitement or curiosity, happiness or joy.
It is then that our brilliant brain tells us that we must fill this void to feel better, and this is when children and teens are drawn to screens. Understanding that if there’s a deep dependency to the screen means that there’s something missing is super important because it helps us shift from anger to compassion – a real desire to flip things around.
Screen Time is not the Real Problem
And now we’re getting to the heart of it all. Screen time is not the real problem.
Suppose your children were on their best behaviors. Suppose they were pleasant and polite. Suppose they did all their homework and spent quality time with you and their siblings. If they didn’t tend to power struggle – AND they spent time on the screen – you wouldn’t even be bothered by it, would you? If you could observe your children and check all the needed tasks, actions, and behaviors, AND there was screen time – who cared?
Balance. Screen time struggles appear when there is no healthy balance between screen time and life as a whole. When you switch your focus from reducing screen time to increasing everything else around it, you finally face an entirely possible change in your family life.
Gather your kids; tell them that what you want is more of them, more time with them, more time spent among themselves, more fun, more joy, more pleasure. Explore how you can achieve this together with them. Let them come up with their suggestions and activities and manage as much of their schedule as possible. Show them that you trust them to assert their autonomy in a way that works for all of you. Show them that screen time is a valid part of life when life is lived fully.
And – explore your relationship with your screen – how do you measure?
I have full training on managing screen time while increasing real-life balance in my Facebook group 🙂 I’d love for you to join, watch, and talk to me about your next steps!
See you soon!