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by Tyler Woodall
| Parenting, Homework, Children, Adolescents, Teens, School

Screen Time Solutions: Navigating Limits for Children and Teens

Eighteen square inches have changed the world as we know it. The average size of a smartphone screen is 3 by 6 inches. These few inches have the ability to connect us from miles and worlds apart, and at the same time create distance between those we are closest to. Parents have described the screen time conversation with their children as a “war”, a “never ending supply of eggshells”, and “a never-ending loop”. It doesn’t have to be. As children and teens learn to implement technology in their lives and our globalized world, it is essential to offer consistency with support and limit setting. All behavior leads to consequences, and when an 18-inch screen can reach around the world, the impact only grows. The ideas and guidelines below are intended for family discussion and collaborative application.

To offer meaningful support, it is important to understand the importance of screens in the lives of children. Gone are the days of waiting; 2-day shipping, instant messenger, contactless meal delivery, games, alternate realities, and the ever-impending group message have stepped onto the field and altered the rules of play. To say that “the world is at my fingertips” is now in some ways completely true - our children and teens have grown up with this ability. For this reason, it is important to recognize the impact of time away from screens - an immediate connection to any and everything in the world is removed. Screen time limits will likely come with feelings of grief, loss, anger, sadness, or a sense of being misunderstood. Handling these moments with a sense of understanding is key to breaking the cycle.

Validating Emotions:

  • Some of us name our feelings, and everyone shows them – validating emotions happens best face to face.
  • If your child or teen isn’t one to name their feelings, take an educated guess…to the tune of “I would imagine this feels like _____.”
  • From here, close the distance by sharing understanding from their perspective. Reach for 3 immediately relevant reasons.
    • I would imagine this feels like you’re being punished, you might even be feeling isolated.
      • That feeling makes sense to me because…
        • Ex: “You’re used to spending time with your friends right now”, “You weren’t able to make the last hang out”, “We’ve had a difficult year at home”

Sharing this understanding opens the door for the limit to land on otherwise unattended soil. From here, it would be quite normal for the conversation to shift, to open up, or you may be met with silence. When sharing limits, be clear and concise, know that what you are sharing will become the shared expectation even if there is resistance. Children and teens can only be as consistent as the support and limits they receive.

Screen Time Tips:

  • Screens after dark interrupt the sleep cycle - identify a cutoff time that offers 30-minutes to an hour before sleep to allow the body's natural rhythm to work effectively.
  • Actively manage the family’s screen time - participate in helpful habits with your children - work the problem with them!
  • Look for opportunities to adjust and be flexible based on school, activities, and holidays.
  • Implement apps like Bark and Aura to allow parents to receive notifications when specific content is accessed as well as an immediate ability to stop and start access to the internet.
  • If screens are going down, be ready to bring something up and support your child or teen to do the same.
  • Create structured family time where phones stay off in a time-limited space.

If screens, the content on them, or the discussion around them are interfering with your child’s life and become unmanageable, reach out for help - you are not alone. Individual and Family Therapy can be helpful for addressing technology overuse, push-back on limits, and underlying concerns that may be driving the interference.

Counseling and Assessments at The Center

Our therapists and psychologists provide counseling, assessments, and educational testing for kids, teens and adults. Whether you are needing help as a parent, help for your child or teen, or testing, such as an ADHD evaluation, we are here to help.

Call The Center at 214-526-4525 to schedule an appointment with any of our 35+ therapists or psychologists at any of our offices across North and Central Texas. Learn more about our team HERE.

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