There’s a saying, “The family that plays together, stays together” which is very true. As children grow up surrounded by screens and technology in a time of busy-busy and hurry-scurry, keeping up family rituals, connectedness and sharing is increasingly important.

While time on screen is often demonised, the reality is that it is now part of most families’ lives and that’s not all bad. When screen time is mapped and managed and becomes part of the family’s accountability to each other, enjoying time together and individually on-screen can be a healthy part of family life.

Finding a healthy balance in all areas of family life is essential to prevent activities such as screen time dominating and becoming an obsessive addiction.  There are so many examples, like having treats, eating out, getting exercise and time on-screen that need some thinking through to strike just the right balance in family life.

So, how can families include screen-time into their lives without it becoming too much and too prominent with all of the disastrous behaviours that accompany that?

There’s power in a communal family screen plan

It’s often surprising for parents to realise that their children are very knowing about what’s right and wrong, what’s too much and too silly. When families talk through aspects of their family life outside of times where the talking is more like shouting, directing and correcting, what results are some good and healthy boundaries that are respectfully negotiated and agreed by everyone.   Of course, this is much harder to do with little ones, but our tweens and teens crave being listened to and included in the setting of rules and expectations.

The Family Screen Plan (DOWNLOAD Unfilled Version | Filled Version) is a very good starting point for a family discussion about screen-use. We’ve even included an example for you to work from and get some ideas. Here are some tips that will help completing the plan to be a together and torturous family event:

  • Choose a time to work on the document together where everyone has enough time to think through the requirements and to contribute.
  • Write down everyone’s ideas when it comes to what happens when screens are on and off. You’ll be surprised at how insightful children are when discussion about an important issue isn’t happening when the issue is unfolding.

Choosing a key focus word for your family’s screen-time brings everyone into the same way of thinking about engagement. It might be respect, kindness, inclusion… Choose what’s right for your family at the time of your planning and remember to revisit and change that word from time-to-time.

Respect for rules and limits, acknowledging the need to move and have lots of outside and away from screen time, deciding where and when devices can be used, and having a think about the importance of sleep should all be part of your family’s screen-time plan.

The more your family can talk through and discuss in these quiet reflective moments, the stickier the plan is and the better the outcomes become. Any tween who feels ownership over parts of the decision-making is generally more likely to stick to the decisions.

Getting real about family life and screen-time

As much as many of us wish we could revert to times past when screens weren’t as prevalent, that has to go into the same wishful thinking bin as a ride on a unicorn. Screens are part of life – home, school and work. And, used well, they’re an incredible learning tool, amazing for entertainment and for keeping families connected.

When it comes to screen time at home though, the creep towards ‘just one more minute’ and ‘just one more game’ becomes a slippery slope towards disaster. Every family should have a screen-time plan that’s discussed, agreed and re-visited regularly. It means that everyone can get enjoyment from time on-screen without it being a dominant part of family life that can end up in regular tears and techno-tantrums.

Finally, it’s vital that the whole family agree to, and stick to, the plan if it’s going to work. Vital! As tweens watch big people manage their screen-time well, they learn to do the same. 

DiGii Social is a carefully designed digital-life training platform just for tweens. It provides the opportunity to practise skills towards mastery before spending too much time on other social media platforms. DiGii Social is easy to use and available as a school subscription with a parent education channel included.

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