Healthy screen time for children doesn’t come easy

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, parents and loved ones may be looking for the perfect “wow” gift to give to their children. Online sales along with many in-store, discount promotions entice us to look to electronics and digital devices as that “wow” gift.

I know from my own experience, I loved to see my daughters light up over a new device. Since we live in a technological world and this type of gift offers many benefits, offering our children healthy parameters around these devices is needed now more than ever.

It has been two months since the “Screenagers” was viewed at KCC Performing Arts Center. The film offered a broad brushstroke of information around technology and its affect on our children and families.

For those of you who were in attendance and for those of you who may sometimes ponder whether or not technology and the time spent with devices is within healthy parameters; I offer you a few family action items that you can implement today as well as be proactive in implementing as soon as your child unwraps that shiny new electronic device.

The smiles shared with the unwrapping will be sure to continue if a healthy relationship with the device is unwrapped along with it.

To be effective in influencing children on the issue of limiting screen time, begin by committing to have many short, calm and caring conversations with them. Start with the following and add your own family guidelines as circumstance arise.

Some things to consider before implementing guidelines:

w Recognize that it is normal for there to be tension in the home around this topic. Parents often express anxiety and frustration and children may feel defensive.

w Keep in mind that the goal is to help everyone become more conscious of when and why they use technology and how it affects self-esteem, social skills, relationships, work, academics and more.

Family action items:

w Start conversations by encouraging everyone to share positive aspects of technology in their lives. Then move on to ideas about when screens should be turned off.

w Engage your children in the decision making around limiting screen use.

w Possibly, offer a house rule that no screens are permitted in bedrooms after a certain time at night (making their bedroom tech free, offers a quiet space for them to just be).

w Family dinner time is yet another area where screens might be turned off. This action will allow for more invaluable, face to face communication to emerge.

w Take ownership of your own screen time usage. This is not one of adults versus kids; this is a joint family project where finding balance is the goal for everyone.

w Stick with it, be consistent over time these conversations, build trust and understanding so that there can be effective change in behaviors and trusted future conversations.

I believe in the importance of parents helping children find a healthy balance with screen time. Beginning the conversation is the first step, so why not continue to find joy in that electronic or digital gift for many years to come by taking the opportunity to allow it to connect you with your children in a way that you had not previously considered.

This is a great launching platform for building future trust and communication with all of your family members.


Mary Wheatley is a Kauai resident and an inspired parent coach.


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