Mindful Media Consumption
When we think about limiting screen time, it is usually in the context of doing what is best to support our children's healthy development. But there are real benefits to keeping your own screen time in check as well. Not only does it role model good behaviour, but it also creates a window of opportunity to be more present and mindful with your family.
Days spent with small children may be exhausting at times but ask any parent with grown children and they will probably tell you it flies by in the blink of an eye. Their advice will likely be to enjoy them while you can. So ask yourself what you want out of your time with your kids. By scaling back some of your electronics usage, you may find new opportunities to be more present; time to chat about their day, time to read together, time to play together and time to just 'be'.
You may not realise it, but just as for our kids, electronics use can replace our more active pursuits. The blue light from devices can increase sleep disturbances. Even parents are not immune from the anxiety-inducing effects of FOMO (fear of missing out) or of not living up to the standards of others' seemingly perfect lives on social media. Add to this the risk of strained eyes, blurred vision, headaches, neck and back pain caused by poor posture from too much screen time, and we've got some pretty compelling reasons to keep our usage in check.
Being a Media Model
You may also find that reining in your screen time alleviates some parenting struggles. After all, when it comes to screen time, the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach may fall short, especially once your children get a little older. Kids are savvy. If they see you engrossed in your socials for hours at a time, jumping to your device at every ping and putting yourself to sleep by the blue glow of YouTube videos, your screen time rules may fall on deaf ears. While it is often true that parents have work and other commitments that tie them more closely to their devices, like so many things in life, there is a time and a place for everything. So model appropriate use and set boundaries for yourself.
- Consider limiting your device usage when you're with your kids to essential communications.
- Use electronics together with your children. Talk about what you see, understand the content they are using and use screen time as a tool to bring you closer together.
- Show respect for people's privacy, including your children's. Think carefully about the pictures you post of your kids on socials.
- Try to apply the rules you have in place for your children to yourself. Use screen time controls in the same way you do for your kids. Override the limits if necessary, but use them to keep you mindful of your usage.
- Turn off all alerts. Check for messages at a time that is convenient for you, not in response to every ping and pop-up.
- Where possible, avoid screen use within an hour of bedtime so you can get a good night rest. It is hard to be a good parent when you are exhausted.
- Be present. Avoid non-essential device use when with your kids.
- Be mindful of your usage. Set boundaries and use screen time controls on your own devices. Use electronics together with your children.
- Kids learn from what they see – model appropriate screen use.
- Excessive screen time can also affect parents; sleep disturbance, poor posture, weight gain, headaches, anxiety.
- Avoid screens within an hour of bedtime.
- Turn off alerts and notifications.