One of the first topics families ask me about when we work together is screen time. Usually they want an official answer on how much screen time is the right amount. Before I ever give an answer, I ask a few questions: How much time do your kids spend watching television? What change do you see in their behavior from screen time? Is there an adult disagreement regarding time on screens?
That last question, about making decisions, is always what provides the most insights. In many families that have two parents, one parent is more relaxed about screen time and the other wants strict rules around it. One parent is okay with a little extra here or there, and the other is opposed to screens during the week.
What is more important than the exact number of minutes your child gets on any technology is having parents that are unified. Now, unified does not mean that you have exactly the same opinion, but it does mean that you don’t throw each other under the bus.
As adults, sit down and discuss your opinions. Share your ideas and listen to your partner’s insights. This is a moment to remember that you are on the same team and want the best for your children. It is not a moment that is about proving your side is right or everything else is wrong. Be open. Making this type of decision will require you both to compromise. One of you will allow a little more screen time than you desire, and the other will have a little less.
Give yourself a time limit for this conversation. Personally, I am a fan of 60 minutes. More than that and you are just going in circles and repeating yourself. Commit to having a decision at the end of your time together. That means that every step of this conversation is about finding a solution, not being right. Making a difficult decision like this goes much smoother when you remember you are looking for a solution.
The final step of this decision is for you to write down the plan together. This ensures that you both remember what you decided. Plan a family meeting and share the new decision with your children. Share the plan from a united perspective, and say, “We decided together.” This gets everyone on the same page.
The critical part of making a decision is putting the details into action. How much screen time do your kids get? Who is monitoring the time? A hint, it needs to be an adult, because kids will never voluntarily give up their screen time. When are you re-evaluating the plan? The decision is just the first step. Putting it into place and keeping it going is what will make the difference for your family!
Dr. Marcie has a doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University and is the author of “Love Your Family Again” and “Love Your Classroom Again.” Her website is DrMar