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Updating your Family Screen Policies

Use the start of school as an opportunity to update your family screen policy. Consciously set aside this time to consider your family’s screen time policies in an intentional, mindful way and give some thought to whether your children’s screen behavior continues to align with your parenting goals and values.

If you are parenting preschoolers or school-aged children, begin by gathering data about how much time your child is currently spending on screens. You can break the day into chunks and record how much time your child spends on screens (1) before school, (2) after school and before dinner, (3) between dinner and bedtime. Repeat this analysis for weekend days, evaluating screen use before breakfast, between breakfast and lunch, and so on.

If you are parenting a tween or teen who has a phone or other personal electronic device, collecting accurate data may be more tricky. Do your best to develop as accurate a picture as possible of your child’s screen time on weekdays and weekends. In addition, give some thought to the main benefits your child accrues from their online activity (such as connecting with far away cousins or learning new skills from watching ‘how to’ videos), whether your child is using screens in their room, and how often you are fighting about electronics.

In addition to gathering data, spend some time thinking about your goals and values regarding your child’s use of screens. If you are parenting with a partner, each parent can think about this topic independently, then sit down together and discuss a set of rules that make sense to both of you. A great resource with many useful articles about parenting and screen time, including up-to-date information about privacy settings and parental controls, is Common Sense Media here >

Think about screen time within the context of all the activities in a child’s life. In order to maintain a healthy brain and a healthy body, we want children and adolescents to engage in a variety of different activities including socializing with both peers and family, physical activity, creative pursuits, and so on. Screen time is one item on a menu of activities children can participate in, and the goal of re-assessing screen habits is to be sure that your child’s life has balance.

Once you have clarity on data and goals, develop a formal Family Media Plan or revising the plan that you already have in place, then find a time to have a calm, one-on-one conversation with each of your children. You can find a Family Media Plan example here >

For younger children, preview any changes to your summer routine in clear, simple language. For tweens and teens, take a collaborative approach to this conversation. Depending on your child’s age, begin by asking them what they think is working about screen time and what they like to do best on screens. Remind your child that one of your most important jobs is to help them maintain a healthy brain and a healthy body and ask them to reflect on whether they are engaging in a balance of activities. Remember that adults are in charge of making rules to keep children safe and healthy.

Good luck!

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