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  • Writer's pictureP.E.T. South Africa

How to approach the holiday 'screen time battle'

The December holiday is here. Across South Africa, parents and children are rejoicing the end of another school year. No more early morning chaos getting dressed, fed, and packed for the day ahead - for the next couple of weeks everyone in the family can sleep in and enjoy the lazy summer days ahead.

Unfortunately, even though the pool is clean and shimmering bright, the grass freshly cut, and the sun shining; many children will prefer spending their time indoors with eyes glued to a screen. And many parents will need to engage in what is probably one of the most dreaded parent-child confrontations; the so-called 'screen time battle'.

Talking about how much screen time is too much, is undoubtedly a conversation all parents have encountered, and one many would rather avoid. But the December break has just started, and while positivity levels are high, it's best to get ahead of the 'screen time' discussion before it becomes a battle.

Here are three essential things to consider before approaching the topic.

Firstly, and most important, set the example

Avoid hypocrisy as much as possible. If you are preaching to your children about 'screen time' with your phone in one hand typing away, then sorry, you've already lost the battle. Your children won't take you seriously and will challenge you no doubt.

Yes, you are the adult and might feel more entitled to have your way. But be warned. Children look to their parents' behaviours as examples of how they should model their own actions. And the solution is quite simple; if parents demonstrate what they value, the modelling process will take place almost automatically.

"Modeling can be a very powerful influencing skill with older children as well as with the very young. If teens like the way you talk to them, they will listen to what you have to say. Of course, it’s important to start your modeling at the very beginning. It’s not realistic to expect brand-new modelling to abruptly change a teenager’s habits and tastes developed over many years." - Michelle Adams,Vice-President of Gordon Training International

Unlock the conversation to the problem at hand

Preaching, screaming, nagging, bribing will get you nowhere. Remember, you have a problem with your child spending too much time in front of a screen. It's therefore crucial that you define your problem, as well as determine the possible concrete effects.

Example: "I’m worried that I won't be able to pay my data and electricity bill at the end of this month if you keep on spending so much time on the internet."

Be warned. You might unlock some resistance at first; it's important to then active listen and try and identify and communicate back your child's needs in the process. Be prepared for a lot of back-and-forth but once everything is out in the open you can propose a problem-solving session - a moment for the both of you, or even better, the entire family, to sit down and discuss the problem.

Come up with a solution and set the rules together

Children are far more likely to collaborate and cooperate in rule-setting when they are actively involved in the process. Allowing your child the opportunity to have a say in the rule-setting process can have many benefits:

  • Your child will feel more motivated to implement or comply with the rules.

  • Your child will develop a sense of control over his/her fate, resulting in higher self-esteem.

  • Allowing your child to be part of the process rather than enforcing power over promotes personal responsibility and self-discipline.

  • Your child will become more independent and self-regulated.

  • Your child will feel valued as an equal member of the family, leading to closer and stronger bonds.

"At some time in our lives we all have felt unmotivated to comply with some rule or policy that we had no voice in making. Denied the opportunity to participate in establishing a rule, most people feel imposed upon and resentful of the new rule. But when people actively participate in setting a rule or making a decision that will affect them, they are more highly motivated to comply with it. We call this the Principle of Participation, and it has proven its effectiveness in numerous research studies." - Dr Thomas Gordon

The most important thing to remember is to include all the members who will be affected by the rule or decision. The 'screen time battle' is the perfect opportunity to test your knowledge of the skills above especially because we are all guilty of spending too much time glued to our screens - not just our children.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.

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