Setting digital ground rules for the girls was something I realized would be important very quickly as they started to come into an age where they’d have their own cellphones, tablets, etc.
As a blogger, it’s an honor to have an audience online, but growing up as the internet has evolved I’ve seen how it can be scary, time-consuming, and outright disturbing. With that in mind, it’s always been important for Jon and me to have space for an open conversation with the girls about both the incredible powers of our digital devices and how they create opportunities for creativity and learning, but also the cons and negative effects of prolonged screen time.
We wanted to promote a discussion in a way that didn’t make the girls feel like they were limited or restricted, but instead, hopefully, provide education that allows them to actively want to set down the screen for their own reasons. Here are some of the steps we took:
We showed them how the phone tracks screen time
By taking them through the steps of how they can get to this screen, we were able to empower them to check in on their own screen time and encourage them to reference their limits when deciding to indulge. Knowing that this information is available also remind them that we, as parents, have access to this information if we wish. Then, we set goals together for what a realistic amount of screen time is per day! Since our girls have such an age gap between them we give them both different time restrictions.
With the Family Link app from Google you’re able to view their activity along with the amount of time spent on each app. You can even add bonus time easily from the app if they earned the time from doing extra chores.
This is so useful when bringing awareness to children especially around time spent in an app, teaching time management at an early age, and positive reinforcement for accomplishing extra work around the house.
Using the same settings, we were able to put time limits on certain apps like social media. After a certain amount of hours, a five-minute reminder will come up and then once the time has expired you can, of course, simply ignore it, but having the notification come up is a good reminder to set down the phone and stay present or focus on other things. One awesome feature about Google Family Link is that it locks the device from additional usage and you’re able to give your child a break before the device get’s unlocked again.
The Encarnacion family mission for screen time
We decided to create a mission and goals for screen time that incorporated our values for ourselves, as well as our values as a family. Here’s what the whole team came up with:
No phones at the dinner table
Dinners aren’t perfect in our house. We don’t always sit down at the table, we sometimes sit on the couch, or eat at different times, or admittedly even in different rooms, but when it is a sit down meal it’s a no-phone zone!
No texting and driving with the kids in the car
The girls came up with this one (Mom and Dad need a rule too) and it’s a given! We are committing to their safety which holds us accountable and we know they will call us out if we even think about answering a call.
When in doubt, talk it out
This one is straight from the Be Internet Awesome Family Guide. We want our girls to know that no matter what they come across online, even if they didn’t mean to or if they don’t understand it (a phrase, a video, an image, etc.), then they can ask us. We won’t be upset or mad that they came across content that wasn’t appropriate for them, and we welcome an open and honest conversation always.
This also applies to online conversations. Chat rooms with entirely anonymous strangers aren’t as popular as they used to be, but now we have Snapchat messages that disappear, DMs that can easily be deleted, and text messages that can be manipulated to show any name/number has sent the message. Yeah, that’s a thing.
We’ve told the girls that if they ever feel bullied, scared, uncomfortable, or confused by an online conversation with someone they know or don’t know, they should come to us and we’re happy to help them work through it. Together we can create a respectable and brave response and the person on the other side of the screen will never have to know Mom and/or Dad were involved.
For more info on how to create healthy digital habits for your family, check out google’s Family Link.
This blog post is in collaboration with Google For Families. As always, all opinions are my own and I found their Be Internet Awesome content to be an incredible resource for information and guidance.