Best Practices For
Managing Screen Time

Dear Friends,

We’ve been surprised by how many issues arise when mobile devices become a daily part of family life—we’ve had many stumbles and fumbles. Having dealt with nearly every scenario from kids who sneak iPads in the middle of the night to unwanted FaceTime callers, we hope you can benefit from our lessons learned.

‘Parenting Technology’ is a big job and requires an investment of your time. Here, with input from Our Friends, we’ve compiled our Best Practices for Managing Screen Time with the hope of shortcutting it all for you. Our goal is to make life with screens easier for both parents and children by matching you with the best resources and showing you how to use them. 

We’re here to help at any point—you can just text us at: 8-HIFAF-GOT-U!

With best wishes,

 

 

Julie Paul, Founder

TABLE OF CONTENTS D.N.T.

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#1  Create Good Alternatives

Today we find ourselves ‘Parenting Technology,’ and the first stop on this screen time management journey is making sure your kids have good alternatives. When ‘boredom’ strikes, kids inevitably gravitate toward screens. Here are our best ideas for creating good alternatives:

  • Get Your Kids Excited about Their Free Time: What would they like to do more of, and how can you encourage them?
  • Make Your Home a Destination for Fun
    • Do a Toy Refresh–clear out the playroom and toy baskets to make room. 
    • Create an area for teens to hang out with non-screen entertainment options 
  • Connect through Experiences – Where would they like to go, what would they like to do, and who would they like to do it with?
    • Get their help in planning a family outing or trip
    • Starting in middle school, there are more options for volunteering together
  • Be Social
    • Who would they like to have play dates with? Keep a running list on your phone. 
    • Be prepared to support your teens social social life by opening up your home, offering your driving services, and planning/funding some of the fun
  • Have Your Child Make an ‘I’m Bored’ List of things to do when that feeling hits. Keep it on your phone, and next time, you’ll both be prepared.  
  • Encourage Them to Plan Ahead–what will they do to keep themselves entertained at a restaurant, a doctor’s office, or on a road trip?
  • Consider a Dog — really, your entire family will get outside more!

If your kids seem too into their devices, remember to consider: “What’s the alternative?” Encourage them to take charge of their free time!  See our TimeWise Calculator. 

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#2  Lay The Ground Rules

Most parents would agree that screen time is a privilege rather than a right, but how this plays out in actuality varies greatly from family to family. Based on parenting preferences and family values, parents set expectations around:

  • Access: Where and when screen time is permissible and whether children must formally earn it or adhere to certain expectations.
  • Appropriateness: What online activities children may engage in, what games they’re allowed to play, what they’re allowed to watch, and which (if any) social media platforms are permitted.  
  • Etiquette: How they’re expected to behave online and interact with others.  
  • Accountability: How they’re expected to care for devices, and who’s accountable for lost, stolen, damaged or malfunctioning devices
  • Privacy: Decide whether you’ll be monitoring online activity and tracking your kid’s devices (67% of parents believe that their children’s online safety is more important than their privacy)
  • Ownership: Decide whether you’re comfortable with your child ‘owning’ a device or set the expectation that the device belongs to,  and is on loan from, the family

Determining the answers to these questions may take some trial and error, but ultimately having a strong set of guidelines for screen time and media use sets the tone and can help you to regain control if it’s become an issue. Communicating these expectations will save you many future headaches and is a fundamental first step in establishing a peaceful household. See our Family Agreement. 

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#3  Take Control with these Parental Controls

When you’re ready to give your child a smartphone, remember that you are in the driver’s seat. Beyond our Family Agreement, you can put your child on a good path by: 

  • Investing the time to learn about parental controls. For most families, it starts with mobile devices:
  • Remembering that every app your child accesses is ultimately your choice.
    • Apple makes it easy to strip a phone down to its basic components let you decide what your child will have access
    • Every single app and feature can be turned off except for calling and SMS texting (iMessage can be blocked)
    • Make sure you’re familiar with the features of any app before you give your child access, particularly when it comes to social media and popular gaming apps
    • Turning the App Store off can ensure your child has to obtain permission
  • Consider which tools can help you to set schedules and time limits

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#4  Be Sure to Check All The Boxes

‘Parenting Technology’ can feel like a labyrinthine maze with an overwhelming number of twists and turns. Unfortunately, parental controls for mobile devices are just the starting point. You’ll want to consider options for: 

  • Advanced web-filtering to block explicit content: Mobicip is much more effective than browser controls
  • Streaming services: all the major content providers have their own parental controls
  • YouTube (it offers Restricted mode, but it is not foolproof)
  • Computers: on Macs, you can set up a child profile with time limits, and use Safari restrictions for web-browsing
  • Wifi controlsCircle allows you to block or pause every device running on your Wifi
  • Gaming Consolesthe most popular ones have parental controls and provide easy access to the Internet
  • Smart TVs and your cable provider

Our Roadmaps can help you make sure you’ve checked all the boxes, literally. 

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#5  Have Frequent Conversations with Your Child

It’s amazing how much more effective a conversation can be if you share your reasoning as opposed to just saying no.

Often kids just want to go off into their own little world with their iDevices, but screen time can be a social and connecting experience for families. So make it fun, make it family time! While some parenting experts might say, meet your kids where their interests lie, it’s really most fun to watch something you can all enjoy together. Create discussion by building a content library for a variety of occasions (Common Sense Media is a great resource). You’ll never burn precious time scrambling to find something to watch.

While ‘Parenting Technology’ can feel endless and exhausting, we can help you to navigate your way through. Once we’ve helped you to complete the major steps and check all the boxes, you’ll feel more confident in how your kids are spending their time online.  

Make sure you’ve signed up for the Screen Time Roadmap.

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