A Messy Family Guide to Screens & Your Child

Want to Limit Screentime for your Kids? Start with Yourself.

Ask yourself: how much do you use screens? Are you moderating your use? Are you making sacrifices of your own screen time to parent your kids? Are you struggling against laziness or sloth in yourself?

This can be the hardest step. We aren’t a convincing model for our children or teens if we automatically answer our phone even when we are in a conversation, if we are constantly swiveling to a screen when teens are talking, or if we spend hours of time browsing social media, scanning YouTube, gaming, or viewing more harmful material. We would like to challenge you to assess your own screen time together with your spouse.

Maybe you need to track your usage for a week to get some data. Some phones like the iPhone will track your screen time and let you know how much time you’re actually using (or wasting) on the screen. Look at those numbers to see where you are using your time.

The big reason we begin with ourselves is that we need to recognize that technology is addictive, or at least habit forming! Remember, we are adults with fully-formed brains who have already survived school, navigated the job market, maybe even had successful careers before addictive tech came on the scene. Our kids don’t have that advantage. They have much less formation than we have had.

Hopefully completing this exercise will make us more sympathetic to the struggles of a tween who finds video games more attractive than homework, or a teen trying to break the social media itch. Our kids don’t have the psychological resources or knowledge we have: if we ourselves struggle to limit screen time, we have got to understand that it’s even harder for them. But just like we can’t give up on our own struggle to limit screen time, we can’t give up on them either. It’s part of our job.

Have a conversation with your spouse about your own screen use with our worksheet, found on our free resources page. You can download it here.

You can also find more information on our podcasts “What every parent needs to know about screens and technology,” “Screens and your child,” and “Technology and Kids.” and “Can Kids use Technology with Virtue?