If my sons aren’t watching their tablet, they’re eye-balling my laptop screen, smart phone or flat-panel TV.
We’re loaded with potential screens for them to watch, and most days they’d rather do that than anything else. Who needs a pick-up basketball game when you’ve got “Minecraft,” “Gravity Falls” or “Angry Birds”? Temptation awaits at every corner thanks to a capitalistic system that makes these goodies so darn affordable.
What’s a father to do?
For starters, understand you’re not alone. Most parents must deal with this issue in some capacity. Children are voracious consumers of both kiddie TV and video games, and there’s never been another time where so many distractions are at their fingertips. Even parents who manage to keep kids unaware of the latest, coolest games can’t be on the school playground where other students fill them in.
And then the pressure is on.
You don’t have to panic.
Here are 4 tips to help you stop worrying and start loving screen time:
1. The Carrot and Stick Approach
Our sons can’t simply wake up and play on the tablet each school day morning. They must have a hearty breakfast, dress themselves and do every step necessary to prepare for school. Then, if time permits, they can play some “Angry Birds.” If they don’t …. then they can’t have any screen time. Is it bribery? Perhaps. But it’s letting your children know they must respect your rules before playtime can commence. That’s a scenario that will repeat itself throughout their lives. Why not give them experience in dealing with it?
2. Fight Tech with Tech
Parents aren’t powerless against screen-time demands. In fact, some gadgets actually help Ma and Pa keep screen time exposure to a minimum. The TimesUpKidz program works on Windows-based computers. It lets you restrict the amount of screen time your child has. And you can set different screen limits for different children. The TV timer known as BOB is another way to use technology to bring peace to your home. This gadget turns off the screen in question when a certain amount of time is up. That way the doohickey is the bad guy, not the parent.
3. Strike a Happy Medium
Not all games turn a child’s brain to something soft and mushy. There are a wealth of educational contests out there that are both engaging and parent-friendly. Hone their math skills. Brush up on shapes, colors or even the alphabet. There’s a game for virtually every educational topic. If some of a child’s screen time is dedicated to learning, parents can sleep a little easier.
4. Recruit Others in the Screen Time Fight
Sometimes a babysitter will allow your child to play video games while you’re away. It’s not always their fault. Children can be pretty smooth talkers when motivated. So always make the screen-time rules clear to babysitters, uncles and grandparents watching your children. Create a unified front, and things will go more smoothly.