a blank computer laptop screen on a desk while parents are determining rules for screen time

Parenting during a pandemic is hard. I don’t have to tell you that. But co-parenting or being a single parent during a pandemic, well, that is next level hard. How do you set rules that everyone can live with and, most importantly, stick to when it comes to screen time for your children and teens? Empower Counseling is here for you if you want help in healthy technology habits. So let’s talk about how to set boundaries for screen time that everyone can agree on.

1. #1 Tip for how to set boundaries for screen time that everyone can agree on: Everyone gets a voice, no matter their age.

The best way to come up with rules that everyone can ultimately get behind is to let everyone have a voice on the front end. Call a family meeting. Give each member of the family a chance to state his or her case. 

The catch here is that each person must give his or her “why” for the rule that the individual is asking for. It is beneficial to children and adults hear themselves and the logic behind their choice of rules. 

2. Opportunity to learn self-advocacy.

Not only is this an opportunity for the family to decide the rules together, it is a lesson in self-advocacy. We want our children to use their voices to stick up for themselves in so many ways. This is a perfect opportunity to teach your children how to calmly and respectfully use their voices to express their wants and needs. We want our children to understand that if they have an opinion that is important to them, they can stand up and be heard. Not only that, we want them to learn to express these opinions is calm. peaceful, and respectful manners. Setting boundaries for screen time with the entire family present, makes it easier for everyone to get behind the rules.

3. Set a time limit.

Unless you want the family meeting to take all day, set a timer for each family member. That is the amount of time they each member has to state his or her case. After that, they must give the floor to the next family member to argue his or her case for the boundaries for screen time.

4. Parents have the final say.

After everyone has been heard, it is time for the parents to have a private meeting to determine the final rules.

During this meeting, it is important to find common ground and determine the rules that will be enforced in each home consistently and equally across the board. 

Determine time limits, and occasions when screens are allowed and not allowed. Determine if there are any pre-requisites to earning screen time. If there are pre-requisites, be as detailed as possible in what these look like. 

5. Now the hard part.

Before you go deliver the news of the final rules for the children, you must determine the consequences for breaking these rules.

What exactly will happen if the rules are broken?

Who is going to enforce these consequences for rule breaking?

Tell the children the consequences for breaking the rules at the time you tell them the rules. That way everyone will be on the same page.

6. Punishment fits the crime.

The punishment for breaking the rules around screen time should befit the crime. Don’t throw a blanket punishment on the situation like taking away everything forever.

Think of one solid punishment that fits the crime of ignoring or breaking the rules around screens. Maybe simply take away screens for a given period of time that you think will have the desired affect….which is following the rules next time. The consequences must be strong enough to deter the behavior in the future.

7. Be consistent, be consistent, be consistent.

Consistency is key here. If the consequences are not enforced consistently among households and for each infraction, the kids will know they can get away with breaking the rules and the boundaries you carefully created to limit screen time will mean nothing.

For more suggestions on what to do when parents disagree on screen time click here for an informative article from Smart Social.

If any of your family members are struggling with depression or anxiety, Empower counseling can help by using Acceptance Commitment Therapy, scientifically proven to help relieve both depression and anxiety symptoms.

Empower Counseling is also offers online or in-person teen counseling and counseling for college students who might be struggling with difficult life transitions.

If you like podcasts, check out Imperfect Thriving here.

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