This week, I was talking with a parent who noted difficulties limiting their child’s television time this summer, with their child often responding in defiance. This is a common theme amongst parents and it made me think about the impact of technology and the ways that television viewing has changed since my childhood. So let me turn back time.
Growing up, our only access to television was through the actual television, no mobile devices to allow viewing on the go. We did not have cable and the only way to record a program was through VHS, no binge watching. We had to watch what was on or else turn the television off. That made separating from the television much easier.
So it makes sense that parents today have greater difficulty limiting their children’s television time, as limiting requires self-restraint. And our culture of excess is evidence that self-restraint is not our strength. Many adults are guilty of binge watching yet we expect our children to do differently. That does not make sense to me. Instead of thinking about how to limit your child’s screen time, think about how to help them develop self-control. Here are a few quick tips:
Provide education: Let your children know why you are setting limits on screen time to help them understand the benefits of reading (mental stimulation), imaginative play (fostering creativity), family time (bonding), getting outside (stimulating the senses), and even quiet time (relaxation).
Allow your children choices: They can watch one episode of whichever program they choose yet not one episode of two programs. For the other program, they will have to wait until tomorrow, learning patience, or possibly do chores to earn that other hour.
Praise or reward self-control: In the famous “marshmallow test,” preschoolers were given the choice to eat one marshmallow now or two later. Those who were able to wait demonstrated greater self-control, focus, patience, and academic performance in later years. So rewards are not always negative. Have your child do their homework first and then reward them with extra screen time.
Be a good role model: Save your binge watching of Orange Is The New Black for after your children go to bed. Remember, children follow what we do, not what we say. If they see you on your phone at the dinner table, they will question why they are not allowed to do the same.
On cable TV they have a weather channel – 24 hours of weather. We had something like that where I grew up. We called it a window. – Dan Spencer