Healthy screen time habits

Simone's tips on how to manage screen time for all the ages

Thu, October 06 2022

"There really is no rush to introduce screens in the home", says Simone Davies of Montessori Notebook. "However, if you do choose to introduce screens there can be a balanced approach."

Here are some tips on how from Simone's Montessori and screens blog.

1. Come up with family agreements about use. Agree with the child/ren on what they see, when and for how long. What's the agreement is made, if they go over time, we can simply ask: "What was our agreement about x?" If they have a problem with the agreement, it can be added for discussion at an upcoming family meeting to be reviewed.

2. Look for engaging ways to to use technology. For example, make family films, allow them to try some digital photography and edit the photographs, watch educational videos, like a documentary about volcanoes or listen to Martin Luther King. If it's computer games they want, look for ones that engage them to design something, like a rocket ship or theme park.

3. Introduce grace and courtesy around technology. For example, how to interpret emojis, how to read someone's tone, understanding the etiquette around communicating on different channels like email, text and social media, and who to tell if they experience suspicious behaviour or cyberbullying.

4. Keep screens in the common areas so you are able to supervise them.

5. Safety - talk to them about our digital footprint and what information we are sharing, who we are talking to online, and agree to get permission before making online purchases.

According to Simone, once we have laid the foundation in the first 12-years of good screen use etiquette, generally the child will want to move to using a phone as a way to connect to peers. You will find that they will take more responsability for their screen use, just as they do in other areas in their lives. They are learning, like adults, in finding the balance between the online and offline life. 

Our role as parents is to support them to navigate the limits. If they are comparing themselves to others, getting lost in negative conversation threads, and/or their mental health is being affected, make a time to discuss it with them and make a plan. Be sure to review the plan regularly to see if it is helping. 

Ensure your family agreements include plenty of time for real face to face social interactions; family meals are screen free, lots of excercise in their week. Only suggest to supplement their downtime with technology when they are able to manage the responsability of it appropriately, as some children can still get lost in it. 

Other tips for adolosecents include:

1. Learn the social media they are using so you can assess the risks, show them how to use it safely, and understand the input they are taking in

2. Help them be critical thinkers about the information they find on the internet, even reliable sources. Encourage them to ask questions like: "who created this information?" and "for what purpose?"

3. If they are falling behind with school work, not contributing to the home or other respsonsabilites, have a meeting to help them come up with a plan to manage their screen time

4. Don't use the internet as a first resource, invite them to look up information in the library, arrange a face to face expert, attend a seminar on a topic they're interested in

5. Make a space in the common area for screens 'to sleep at night', ideally stop screen use an hour or two before bed. 


Extra reading: 

83-screen free activities to do at home with young children 

Montessori activities for toddlers and preschoolers 


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