Improving your habits
How to manage screen use
To implement winning conditions for screen use at home, it’s important to set rules for all family members, from children… to parents!
Limit screen time and clarify your expectations
Clearly explain to your children when they are allowed to use screens and when they aren’t. Presenting clear expectations for everyone leads to less conflict at home.
Define the permitted duration of use according to:
- age: reduce screen time to a minimum for toddlers and determine a daily schedule of use for older kids according to their age and needs.
- context: determine a schedule for use dedicated to professional or academic obligations (emails to colleagues, study time, etc.) and limit use for recreational purposes (social media, video games, streaming, etc.). Refer to the PAUSE Guide for connected families to see an example of an agreement on screen use you can fill out together.
Remember that “screen time” is the total time spent in front of different screens, for school as well as fun… It adds up quickly!
Promote the most beneficial content
As a family, discuss the different types of content consumed by everyone by insisting on the importance of prioritising online activities that have a positive influence on your well-being.
- Prioritise educational, unifying, interactive content that is age appropriate. Before buying a video game, refer to the content rating guide to know what is suitable for your child.
- Limit passive, violent or isolating content.
- Block explicit content in your device settings or by downloading parental control apps.
Identify appropriate moments for screen use
Like for the quality of content, discuss the moments when screens aren’t a good idea and the importance of limiting screen use to the situations where it is considered appropriate to be connected.
Determine together the moments that are:
- appropriate (e.g., when homework is done, according to the predetermined schedule, when it doesn’t interfere with other activities, etc.);
- inappropriate (e.g., when it cuts you off from the people around you, when you’re supposed to be doing something else, when it’s not allowed, etc.).
Try to avoid technoference (a term coined by Brandon McDaniel for everyday interruptions to interpersonal interactions due to technology) to minimize the impact of digital distractions on your family relationships and friendships.
Define everyone’s responsibilities
Define the responsibilities of every family member regarding:
- Internet use (e.g., Wi-Fi access, data limits of your family plan or of each smartphone, etc.);
- devices (e.g., the home computer, family tablet, personal smartphone). It is important to define, right from the start, the risks and responsibilities that come with owning or sharing a device. Consult the “PAUSE parent-teen contract”, a template agreement to use if you plan on giving your child a device.
4 bonus tips to help you better manage screen use
- Try to be clear and consistent when dealing with your children. If, for example, tablet use is limited to 30 minutes a day, both parents need to respect this rule as often as possible.
- Try to be flexible by tailoring the rules for everyone according to age and needs. For example, your teen may need a laptop to do schoolwork, but not your youngest.
- Avoid using screens as punishment. The time allotted for screen use to your children can be earned, but it is preferable to avoid using it to punish them, which could increase their desire to connect.
- Encourage screen-free activities. Find out what your children like watching online to better guide them towards other offline activities.
As parents, it is essential to set limits and to teach our children how to enjoy the benefits of screen use while avoiding its harmful effects. The goal is for technology to be at their service and not the other way around.