Parents need screen time limits too

Published in For the Health of It Author: Sarah Abdul Jabbar, MBBS

CentraCare Clinic – Health Plaza Internal Medicine

There no doubt that the presence of screens seems to be ever increasing in our personal and professional lives. The smart phone is a screen that has especially impacted parents and family life. While smart phones make many parts of life easier, from grocery shopping to after school pick up, we can’t ignore the pitfalls of screen time as parents.

Much of the research and attention to screen time limits is directed toward teens and children, but do we ever take time as parents to do some introspection of our own screen time habits? I’m the first one to admit, that even when I’m with my family, I’m tempted to check emails or scroll my social media accounts’ feeds. But, we have a choice in our use of smartphones and screens. We don’t have to live distracted.

Determine a Screen Time Plan For Your Family

Determine a Screen Time Plan For Your Family

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The following tips can help parents achieve the right balance:

  • Determine which triggers are most distracting for you. (The ding of a text message received, the desire to “zone out” in front of the television after work, reading news articles or scrolling Facebook instead of playing with your children?)
  • Wake up and complete your online tasks before the kids awake for the day, or wait until after they go to bed.
  • Walk in the door unplugged and with your phone on silent. Take time to connect with each family member. Ask them about their day, listen intently and give them eye contact.
  • Think twice before using your smart phone when you are with your children. Do you really need to check your phone immediately? This is also true when you are with your spouse, family, friends or colleagues.
  • Try to keep meal times “screen free.” Research demonstrates the physical, mental and emotional benefits of eating meals as a family.
  • Acknowledge your children’s cues for attention and meet their physical and emotional needs.
  • Schedule screen-free time with your family. Keep televisions off, turn your phones off and charge them in a location away from where your family intends to hang out.
  • Strive to be a good role model. How can we ask our children to limit screen time, when we aren’t willing to do it ourselves? Do they see us reach for our phone in moments of boredom or spare time? Children need time to daydream and to learn to be content in solitude. Do they see you doing same?

As we start summer, this is a great time to assess our use of screens, how it may be impacting our family and other relationships and make changes, if necessary. We only have 18 summers with our kids — let’s make them count!