Caroline is happy to admit that she takes a relaxed view on screen time in her household, and her two older children, aged 5 and 8, are able to use their tablets or watch TV when they choose.
A relaxed approach to screen time use
“I might tell them they have ten minutes if we’re going out or it’s bedtime, but we are happy to let them use their tablets if that is what they choose to do,” says Caroline.
Having a relaxed approach means that Caroline has never had to deal with a tantrum caused by telling the children it’s time to turn off. Rather than having rules and schedules, Caroline says she will intervene to redirect the children if she feels they’ve had too much screen time. “I do like to encourage them to do other activities when I feel they’ve had long enough. I might ask Florence if she’d like to get the Play-Doh out, or do some colouring.”
Kids use of devices at home
The age gap between the two children means they often want to do different things. The family manages this by having a television in one bedroom so that Caroline’s older son can watch TV upstairs while his little sister might watch something else downstairs. Both children also have their own tablets, and Caroline’s son has a games console in his bedroom, which he plays regularly.
Managing kids online use through conversations, not restrictions
The children are able to explore content online, although Caroline has a password that means only she or her husband can download new content. “My son does watch YouTube a fair bit, and we don’t censor that in terms of restrictions,” says Caroline. “We keep an eye on what videos he is choosing, and we ask questions about what he has watched or played.”
The upside of giving the children freedom is that they are both able to turn off and walk away from the screen when they’re bored, says Caroline. “I think a lot of the time they’re almost waiting for something else to do, they just can’t be bothered to think of it themselves,” she says.
Caroline and her husband both feel it’s been easy so far to control screen time through talking and reasoning with the children. “When you start placing restrictions and do’s and don’ts, I think children tend to feel they’re missing out,” Caroline says.
That’s not to say Caroline doesn’t have any challenges – she freely admits that when she is tired, it’s all too easy to plonk the children in front of the TV or the tablet for an hour or two, when they should be doing homework.
Giving kids freedom to explore is fundamental
Overall, though, the freedom to explore is a key part of the family’s screen time strategy. “I think knowing they will get screen time again in the near future is understood, and both kids are happy to oblige when we want to do other things,” says Caroline. “Our kids’ favourite thing is to be outside, so the screens are soon forgotten about!”
At present, Caroline’s children aren’t quite at the age of wanting to chat online, but there are still risks. “I’m aware they could stumble onto inappropriate content, so we do keep an eye on what is being watched,” says Caroline. “We have a very relaxed attitude but it doesn’t mean I don’t show an interest or keep myself abreast of what they’re up to.”
Influence of YouTube on kids
Caroline also sees her eldest son imitating YouTube videos on occasion. “He watches a lot of videos and will use phrases that he’s heard, but it’s very interest. I do try and show an interest so I can understand where certain behaviour might come from and ensure there’s nothing I need to worry about.”
Top screen time tip
If there’s one piece of advice Caroline would offer other parents, it’s to relax. “Try not to stress about screen time or feel guilty for using it,” she advises. “Screen time can be educational as well as recreational. Our relaxed approach means we have two very chilled out children who are happy to turn the screens off when we ask them to.”