Please be sure to check out our Facebook Live on Teens Tweens and Screen Time During a Pandemic HERE
The questions on everyone’s mind. What do I do about screen time? How do I set limits? Should I set limits?
Remember how we used to encourage setting limits around the amount of screen time you allowed in your home?
Well, this is where the guy in the corner doubles over, laughs in your face and says, “Right. How’s that working for you right now?” The cell phone and screen time contract that you had your kid sign, you might as well rip it up and throw it in the garbage.
All kidding aside, we have to acknowledge that what worked before won’t work now – after all this is a pandemic.
The truth is, life as we’ve known it is different. Now so many of us are on our screens at once that our wifi can’t handle it.
Screens are keeping our kids and us connected and sane.
Whatever frustrations you had with technology before the quarantine, may only be magnified times ten.
Maybe you’ve become more lax about technology now. How else can you stay sane and not kill your family while you’re managing everything at home? But that leaves you feeling guilty and wondering if you’re making the right decision.
It is so hard to find balance right now if there even is such a thing.
So the big questions are:
How do we navigate technology during a worldwide pandemic while being quarantined?
How can we help them to stay connected and yet not be completely checked out 24/7 on their devices?
After all, shouldn’t we be concerned about their brain development and all those hours online turning their brains to mush?
Here are 8 things to remember when it comes to our tweens and teens during this COVID-19 pandemic.
They are experiencing many losses.
We need to acknowledge that this is a time of grieving for our kids.
They are experiencing losses on multiple levels. We have the ability to see into the future and know things will change even if it’s a long way out. They will never get back the opportunity to have these experiences.
I think about the fond memories I have from my past of these exact events that our kids will miss out on.
Here are just a few of the losses that moms in our community shared over the last several days; friends, birthday parties, graduations, school trips, school dances, belt tests in martial arts, state and national championships for sports, clubs, music lessons and concerts, plays, college trips, studying abroad, and more.
They need help processing their emotions.
Your kids may exhibit different emotions.
Some kids may actually be less stressed and anxious than they were before, getting some relief from social pressure, bullying, grades, and deadlines.
Other kids will be more moody, irritable and even angry.
Or you may find that your kids may sleep more, be apathetic, or weepy at the drop of a hat.
Our kids don’t have the maturity to process all of these emotions. They need our help.
Check-in with your child. Validate their feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and anxiety.
This is hard right now.
I get it that you want to be with your friends.
You may be thinking, “What if they won’t talk about how they’re feeling?” Allow the connection to be more on their terms for a while. Check-in with them and let them know you’re there.
Sometimes they might want to talk, and sometimes they might want to be distracted. Let them know you’re up for either. Whatever you do, don’t force them to talk to you it will only push them farther away. You may think they are ignoring you, but they are listening. They will know you are there when they need you.
They are desperate for connection.
Each family is different in their approach to social media usage and screentime limits.
But….there are a few things that are the same for all of our kids – they need connection.
The world may feel like it’s shut down but our kids’ needs and desires for connection are not. They need connection with their peers and us.
This might look like more gaming – kids chat and connect while playing games like Fortnite, Battlefront, and others.
Spending time on social like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Marco Polo, and others – kids can do group calls/chats and videos through these platforms.
Spending more time on iPhone and android games that allow chat and interaction.
They need to escape.
While we used to say that our kids using technology to escape their emotions was not the best coping mechanism, I believe we have to switch our perspective now.
This is an unprecedented time. I know that if I begin to think about what is happening I can easily get overwhelmed. Our kids need to allow their minds to go somewhere that is not a dark place of confusion and uncertainty.
Let them watch YouTube, binge watch shows, escape into a fantasy game.
Just like we find ourselves needing that time to just get out of our mind for a while, so do they. There will be time enough to deal with the big emotions when we are back to a more normal existence.
They need us to be flexible.
If there was ever a time to be flexible and let stuff go, the time is now.
With this global pandemic, there is so much that we can’t control.
Watching the news is scary. A once normal activity like going to the grocery store can feel like we’re risking our lives and the health of our families (maybe this sounds like I’m being dramatic but this is a real reality for many of us with compromised loved ones).
When we feel powerless, fearful and uncertain, the first thing many of us are prone to do is to look for something, anything to control.
Let’s just assume that the place we should not exert that control unduly is their screen time.
We should not attempt to force them to do something that is not a need.
Cut them some slack (and by letting go of this you may realize how much you feel better as well).
Let them have a little more control over their life right now, they don’t understand how their behavior is playing out and there are much more dangerous behaviors that can surface when a child feels as though they have no control over their lives.
Lean into connection.
Find ways to connect. Peers are so important but nothing will take the place of your presence and time spent with you.
This a time to get to know your tween or teen better.
Now with no after school activities to keep us so busy, there is time for sitting down at the dinner table (use our conversation starters).
Or if that isn’t something your family does, what about giving everyone a chance to choose a movie or tv show to watch together? how about watching a movie?
Another way to connect is to be curious about their online world. Ask them what YouTube channels they like (bite your tongue and no judging), have they seen any funny memes or tic-tocks lately, watch them play a round of their video game (if they don’t mind), but remember – be quiet.
Normal Rules Don’t Apply
Maybe more than anything else you need to hear right now is that you are not a bad parent if you are allowing your kids to spend more time online.
If there was ever a time to rip up that screen time contract, that time just might be now.
With COVID-19, being quarantined and physically isolated from friends, and grieving so many losses – allow more screen time to be okay.
As Karen Young says from Hey Sigmund, “There will be time to reign things in, the middle of a global pandemic isn’t one of them. Rather than taking away technology, add in other things.
The trouble with screen time is what it gets in the way of – connecting with family, play, time outside, face to face conversation, reading, exercise, and sleep.”
The goal right now is the well-being of our kids and ourselves. Ask your kids what will help them cope.
If you have a schedule or routine ask your kids what they can add-in that will help them to stay healthy emotionally and physically.
Talk about the need for them to come up with a plan for how they can make sure they include other important things their brains and bodies need – a time to decompress from screentime.
What are your limits going to look like right now?
How much gaming will you allow?
Do they need to contribute around the house?
Do they need to get their math work done first?
What needs to get done before they can have recreational screentime?
Make a list around these three ideas and make them into bite-size moments: Exercise – hopefully outside, household accountability (this might look like chores), and brain-time.
Give them choices, exercise might look like 30 minutes of getting outside, riding a bike, walking the dog, doing a video, or push-ups.
Household accountability might be simple things but set a timer don’t make them do more than 30 minutes at a time, maybe it’s emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming a room, or wiping down a bathroom.
The idea of brain-time is decompressing outside of screen time and school. Once again, don’t force it, so keep it in bite-size chunks of 30 minutes at a time, you might find they go longer on their own! Maybe this looks like playing a board game, cooking a meal, reading a book, playing with those old LEGOS in the basement, or doing an art project.
We find the if ____, then ____ model works very well here. Don’t completely withhold screen time. So look at it like this.
We will start with 2 hours of screen time a day. If you spend 30 minutes doing some exercise then I will give you two more, and if you do a chore then I will give you another hour, etc.
Think of it less about managing screen time, and more about leaving space for other things.
Don’t expect so much from yourself right now.
It is literally impossible to do it ALL as a mom right now – managing our kids school, homework, schedule, the messes, messes, messes, working from home, husband working from home, trying to keep everyone quiet when on a work call, the up and down emotions with financial stresses, all the togetherness 24/7.
Something’s got to give.
Don’t let that something be your relationship with your kids because you’re attempting to control so many things when so much feels out of control.
Your kids need you to be a calm presence in the midst of the storm of this crisis.
Don’t let the argument over screen time be what breaks you.
Here are some resources for you: