The scene is set… Screen-time has snuck up from a little bit, to a much-too-much sort of situation. Maybe it’s been over holidays or because of a particularly busy period in family life. The decision is made to pare back on screen-time and while the body is willing, the parental spirit is weary. Yes, you look ahead into that well-trodden tunnel of parenting doom; the arguments, the ‘it’s not fair’s’, the, ‘but everyone else is allowed,’ and know that this is probably going to join the long, long list of parenting battles.
This one is worth the time and effort though, so let’s get going with some ways to tame-the-screen-keen-tween. (Dr Seuss – eat your heart out!)
Ripping the bandaid off
Shudder. Cold turkey is probably the toughest way to introduce a new practice. Painful but often the shortest path to change. Is it time to sit down in a calm time with your tween and say that there’s been too much screen-time and that times are changing?
If you have the tween able to cope with this sort of conversation in a constructive way, it’s a good idea to get it started. Top of mind should be your tween’s developing need to feel independent and able to contribute to decision-making. This is a good step towards being a competent adult, even though it takes a bit more time to wallow through the quasi-negotiation stage.
Opening this conversation with the feeling that you’re moving towards collective decision-making and everyone’s thoughts being valued helps. Here’s a conversation checklist to steer the discussion:
The slowly-slowly approach
Not every child is wired for rapid-fire change. Not every parent is wired that way too – able to make the decision and hold the line until the angst of now fades into acceptance. So, there is another way to modify screen-time. Gently, gently, slowly, slowly. Giving yourself and your tween a 4 week window to cut back can work. Start at the end – what’s acceptable to both of you as weekday and weekend screen time? Now, what are the incremental steps to get there that you can both agree on so that by the time you round out week 4, time is reduced, and everyone is happy?
This is a good ultimatum situation (yes, I really am going there!) You make and write down your agreement with the proviso that should any of that time end up in an argument, the default position is that the end of week 4 screen-time limits kick in immediately. You’re saying to your tween, “We can work this out together and both compromise to get what we want, and we’re both responsible for the decisions that we make along the way – and their agreed consequences.”
This approach takes a bit more work as you have to map out each week and then remember where you’re at. It is less confrontational though and can feel more respectful of the needs of the child who struggles to cope with change.
Make a stand and stick to it
Helping your tween to manage their screen-time and to take some responsibility for that is an essential part of growing up in the digital-age. Being a slave to the bings and bongs of the little device at the end of your finger-tips is no good for anyone’s health or wellbeing.
Yes, it’s going to mean some moments where your tween isn’t happy with you – that’s all part of the great parenting adventure. The tween years are so very formative and habit-setting that drawing a line and then holding it when it comes to screen-time flows over into all the other areas of tween-wrangling too. Good luck! Stay strong!
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.
Office of the eSafety Commissioner https://www.esafety.gov.au/