Strict Boundaries I’ve Set for My Kids When It Comes to Screen Time
As we are all raising families in the 21st century, we share the same struggle: managing screens.
One of my biggest concerns has been determining the appropriate amount of time for my children to be held captive by their handheld devices. As soon as my kids wake up, they want to talk on the phone, play games, or jump on some entertainment app. Getting them out the door and on time for school is nearly impossible without threatening them that they’ll never see those devices again.
After school, before their backpacks have time to hit the floor, they have already grabbed their devices without a thought. Homework, piano practice, reading, or studying become secondary. Dinnertime has started to feel like being on an island alone. Without intervention, there’s no one to engage in a conversation or share funny stories with. Oftentimes I feel it’s just me and my echo. Most evenings, I find myself staring at the top of everyone’s head at the dinner table.
And what is worse is that I’ve realized my husband and I aren’t much better. If we lead by example, then it’s no wonder our family suffers from internet and device overload. How can I expect the kids to want to interact with us when we are suffering from the same internet coma?
It’s hard to unplug from the information age that is upon us. We all want to consume every bit of it. I have questions only Google can answer. The kids have crafts they want instructions to. My husband has real-estate properties to look up. We all have our reasons for overstaying our welcome online.
Ultimately, I think most of us stay endlessly connected due to the fear of becoming disconnected. We just don’t want to miss anything. But is it fair to ask my kids to lay off the internet when they witness me or my husband scrolling away? Well, yeah! I am that mom who says, “Do as I say and not as I do.” I feel I’ve earned that. My expectations for my kids are that they do what I tell them to do because “I said so!”
And let’s be honest: They don’t share in adulthood burdens at their age, so why should they share in adulthood-type privileges? I have made it very clear to my children that they do not have the same freedoms as Mommy and Daddy. And although my husband and I try to maintain a healthy balance of face time and screen time, we actually do have real work to do on the internet.
That said, I am a reasonable mom. As such, I’ve decided to give my kids some concessions when it comes to their devices.
So how do I balance giving my kids time to unwind on the internet while not allowing them to become device zombies? I had to set some ground rules:
1. Absolutely no devices before school, period!
2. Homework and instruments must be done before turning on a device.
3. No phones or tablets before 10 a.m. (on non-school days).
4. No more than 2 hours at a time on a device.
5. No devices at dinner.
Disconnecting from the infinite amount of information out there has helped our family become more connected with one another. Every day, there’s more we learn. I appreciate hearing what’s happening in their lives. I love that they trust us with their happiness as well as their struggles.
This is a pivotal time. We are tirelessly building a foundation of security, love, and integrity to give them the appropriate tools for adulthood — tools that only human interaction can teach. Every day that passes, they get closer to becoming full-grown versions of themselves. They are developing interests, ideas, and habits. I want to be a participant in this journey, not a bystander.
These childhood years are fleeting, and as one of my best friends told me, “These kids are just passing through.” I’d hate to look back on this time only to discover that we’ve made minimal joyous and unforgettable memories.
At this moment, I want to revel in all that they do, see, feel and learn. I want to create long-lasting, incredible memories with my children. I want to create traditions and impressions that will outlast even myself. And I won’t let any handheld device take that away from me.