Okay, so here’s the thing. I’m not against devices or screen time – for our kids or ourselves. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m all for them. But I am a strong proponent for setting some serious screen time limits. Because when you don’t set reasonable boundaries, you’re gonna get walked all over, y’all. That and you’re going to lose hours (or more) of your life.
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Why do we need to set screen time limits?
Did you know that SCREEN TIME IS THE #1 CAUSE OF MOM GUILT? This is a big thing – and it’s not going away any time soon. So let’s take a look behind the curtain to see why that is.
Have you ever looked at the psychology behind how people design their apps or shows or whatever else it is they’re trying to get you to watch? Y’all, they’re designed to be addictive. They’re designed to trigger those dopamine and pleasure centers in our brain – so that we keep swiping to refresh the darn screen, waiting to see who’s responded to our latest comment!
In other words, we’re fighting something that’s 100% addictive And as a chocoholic, let me assure you: if I keep chocolate chip cookies in the house, I’m gonna eat them all. It’s the same with my phone – if it’s nearby, I’m probably gonna be checking my newsfeed or texting my sisters or watching some new hilarious video.
That’s why we need limits – because we’re all susceptible to addiction – and this one targets so many of us.
Okay, but do I really need to set a timer? YES. Or at least, I have to.
Thankfully, the AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS realized that their crazy-restrictive rule of “NO MORE THAN 2 HOURS OF SCREEN TIME, EVER!!” was outdated and inappropriate. Since then, the AAP has added a “helpful” family media planner on their website. Yeah, it’s still not very helpful, but it is kind of fun to play with for like an hour.
In any case, to know if you need a timer, ask yourself:
- Are you gonna be able to get off your phone or laptop when you’re done with that one quick thing you need to do?
- Or are you gonna hop on Facebook for “just a quick sec” before realizing 1. that’s not possible and 2. how have six hours just passed?
Okay, so maybe you don’t need to set a timer – but I do.
Before we had kids, I played video games with my husband. It was fun and we lost HOURS of our lives at a time to those games. And that’s not even counting the time we spent catching up with friends and family on social media, too!
With 4 kids, I don’t have much time for video games anymore – but I can easily lose hours working on my blog or writing. Thankfully, I’m a stay-at-home mom who only writes because she likes it – but my kids still hate having to wait for me to “just finish this one last thing” before I’ll help them.
How long should you set a timer for? Well, again it’s gonna depend on what you’re doing, how long it’s going to take, and if you’re going to get distracted (hint: you probably will – but take a deep breath, try a calming relaxation technique, and let’s keep going).
What about for your kids? Do they need a timer? Again, it’s going to depend. My kids get sucked into what they’re doing just like I do. My kids need timers. And I know that based on their behavior.
Set and enforce screen limits – to keep screens out of bedrooms and away from bedtimes
Light is an amazing thing, isn’t it? And the fact that there’s different kinds of light – all that affect us differently. Well, the blue lights on device screens sends our brains the same “STAY AWAKE!!” signals that sunlight does.
In other words, using our phones, tablets, or whatever else right before bedtime is making it harder for us all to sleep! So keep those devices out of bedrooms – and HARVARD MEDICAL SAYS TO TURN THEM OFF 2-3 HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME.
Set limits so you know what your kids are watching
I can only handle so many kid shows before my sanity begins to teeter into the “questionable” category. And, my sanity slips away even faster with certain shows (*cough* Caillou *cough*).
That being said, in a CONTROVERSIAL STUDY DONE USING THE SHOW SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, researchers showed 60 4-year-olds several 9-minute clips. Then, they asked them some questions – and compared the time and answers to the data they got from the exact same questions they’d asked before the clips.
The results? The 4-year-olds weren’t able to think as fast – or as well – after watching SpongeBob and other fast-paced shows. In other words, you should probably make sure your 4-year-old sticks to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or other age-appropriate shows.
My oldest is only 7, but he’s really big into MINECRAFT VIDEOS on YouTube right now. And yes, when he wants to watch those, I make sure of two things.
- First, I’m watching (ish) with him. Filters can’t catch everything. By watching with him, we can talk about it – and make sure that he’s learning good viewing habits.
- And second, we’ve got an agreed-upon time limit set. That way, I know that the end is in sight – and I can rejuvenate my sanity with some ice cream once the credits start rollin’.
There’s so much crazy stuff out there, y’all. Set limits – and know what your kids are watching.
Know the signs of screen time addiction
Remember how I said that I know my kids need limits based on their behavior? My kids are very easily addicted to screen time. And so am I.
That’s why you absolutely have to know the signs of screen addiction. That way, you’ll know if it’s becoming a problem beforehand – rather than when it’s too late. And when you catch it early, you can implement stronger restrictions to keep your family safe.
According to the UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN:
The findings suggest that how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction. This held true after researchers controlled for screen time.
Then it lists warning signs to watch for:
- How hard is it to stop using media?
- Do other things still capture your interest?
- Is screen time all you think of?
- Does screen time cause problems for the family?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when not using a device?
- Are you building up a tolerance to screen time – requiring more and more of it?
- Is deception being used to get more screen time?
- Do you USE DEVICES as a way to escape or feel better?
The scariest thing about that list, at least for me, isn’t that my kids do get pretty dang mean if I’ve let them play too long on their tablets. Okay, so they do tend to pitch a fit if I turn off their game after their time is up. What gets me is that I meet some of the criteria for screen addiction.
- Does screen time cause problems for the family?
- Do you use devices as a way to escape or feel better?
“TECHNOFERENCE“, or technology-based interruptions in parent-child interactions, is fancy talk for “my child just asked me something 12 times but I didn’t hear him because I was on my phone and now I feel guilty – and he’s throwing a tantrum.” #momguilt
The second one… well, it’s nice having a tribe on Facebook who understand and laugh with you when your kids are throwing things all day long. Even so… escapism.
So here’s why we need to set serious screen time limits
Y’all, it’s not just our kids who need screen time limits. It’s us, too. We’re all addicted to our devices.
And it’s affecting how we interact (or don’t) with our kids. It’s making us all more frustrated, annoyed, and angry.
So here’s what we do: we set some limits on screen time for everyone in the family – myself included. We do device-free Sundays. During the week, we limit device time to an hour a day, although the kids can earn more time by doing extra chores.
That’s why we watch their behavior. And when we notice the addictive behaviors creeping in, we declare a few device-free days in a row.
It’s hard y’all. The screaming is, I’m pretty sure, causing me some permanent hearing loss. But when we keep our screen time under control, our family’s interactions become so much deeper, more intentional, and more personal.
And you know what? My kids secretly like device-free days, too. They’ll only ever admit it when it’s just the two of us, but hey. I’ll take it.
So go set some limits. Your whole family will thank you for it, trust me. And you will, too, as you kiss that awful #MOMGUILT goodbye.