Managing screen time rules with children of different ages
The family has different rules based on the children’s ages and these rules are reflected in the parental controls on their devices. “My daughter doesn’t really understand why her brother’s tablet has different features to hers,” Jess says. “My son also uses technology for homework and revision, and his sister can think it’s unfair she can’t ‘play’ on her tablet at the same time he’s studying on his device.”
Overall, though, Jess’ son is the one who is most likely to question the rules. “We definitely get more pushback in terms of always wanting that bit longer,” she says. “We try to stay firm with the boundaries and time limits, and just keep explaining why those rules are in place. If that doesn’t work, we explain that if he isn’t happy with the boundaries, then he can’t have screen time.”
Setting digital boundaries early on in child’s development
It’s much easier to enforce rules when they are set early, adds Jess. The family discussed and set the rules as soon as the children had access to technology. “As my eldest has grown up the rules have changed a little but they’re still basically the same, which means they understand them from the get-go,” she says.
How talking about screen time activities helps
At the same time, the family regularly discusses online safety. “My son is ten and is starting to ask about online gaming,” explains Jess. “We’ve been very open talking about the dangers of being online and what to do if he doesn’t feel safe. I’d rather do that, than have technical restrictions. Talking and understanding is key.”
Switching off screens as a family
The family has one day a week off from technology, usually at the weekend. This is an opportunity to get outside and spend good quality time together. The children also don’t have access to screens after school, unless it’s being used for homework or revision.
Jess admits that she doesn’t always follow the rules herself, though. “I’m terrible for not switching off at a reasonable time, especially in the evenings. I do try, though.”
Understanding screen time boundaries
Each child has a set time limit for accessing screens. This means everyone knows how long they have, and there are no sudden surprises when Mum asks them to switch off! “I see a timer for my youngest, it’s a more visual way to help her realise how much time is left,” says Jess. “We also discussed why the limits were in place, so the kids felt a part of setting the rules.”