Do you remember your parents or grandparents telling you that if you watched too much television, your eyes would turn square? Obviously that is not scientifically accurate, but maybe they were onto something…
I recently started to track screen time usage on my iPhone. There is a new setting that allows you to put time limitations on any of your phone’s applications, then follows that up with a report at the end of the week. This report shows stats such as how long you spent on social media, how many incoming messages you received, how many notifications you had pop up etc. It has been a very eye-opening experiment, to say the least! Before I set the parameters and started receiving these reports, I would have said that I am rarely on my phone, apart from the odd text message or checking my email. This, however, made me realize how often I am needlessly scrolling social media; repeatedly viewing the same posts over and over because nothing new has been put up since the last check. It made me realize how unproductive I am.
As I have been more meaningful with cellphone use and screen time overall (yes, that includes binge-watching Netflix and letting YouTube videos play in the background whilst doing laundry), I have had better, happier, more fulfilling days. Couldn’t our teens genuinely benefit from this same change? Below I have suggested three rules that will help your family to make better use of rare family time, while also encouraging positive habits that will set your teen up for social success outside of the home:
1- “No screens at the dinner table!” While this was an unpopular rule when I was growing up (my parents put it in place when I became an avid GameBoy user), I remember distinctly that dinner with my family was a time set aside for real-life interaction. We had open conversations about our days, enabling better communication and, over time, a better relationship between us children and our parents. I remember feeling the itch to pick up my GameBoy, as I’m sure will be the case with your teen and their phone, but it was beneficial to me to whole-heartedly and with my whole mind be involved in quality time with my family – without any distraction. Some families have a box or tin where cellphones and iPads and other devices go during mealtimes. This might be a good idea, too. Screens can be collected and used again at the conclusion of the meal.
2- “No screens during family time!” On the same vein as the dinner table rule, this applies to family time in general. Whether it be a trip to the movies or a card game around the dining table, nobody likes a bright, flickering screen in their peripheries. Even if it seems unfair to your teen at the time, spending undivided time together is paramount when your teen is developing social skills and being shaped into the adult they will become. While perhaps not the case during recess at school, it is considered highly antisocial to be looking at and distracted by something else when you are around other people. Leaving phones at home during a family outing, or having them all in one person’s bag, will enable everyone to feel involved and included. Laughing and having fun together will make positive connections between being phone-less and being with family. Enjoying wholesome, quality time in-person will trump virtual conversations or “likes” on Instagram every time.
3- “No screens after 9:00pm!” If you use Apple devices in your home and have a Family Sharing plan, you can actually set screen time blocks for certain hours across all your devices. This has worked wonders in our home as it forces us to put down our phone and be more deliberate in our night-time routine. It helps us to wind down for the day, reduces anxiety, and allows for soothing habits such as taking a bath or reading a few pages of a good book. Not to mention: it has been proven that avoiding bright lights within two to three hours of going to bed makes for an easier time getting to sleep! Click here to view that report from Harvard University.
It’s safe to assume that these three rules won’t be popular initially, but they are tried and tested and will no doubt encourage positivity and improved interaction within your home. Unproductivity leads to feeling like a day or an afternoon (or even an hour) has been wasted, which lowers feelings of value and accomplishment. You and your teen will both benefit from limiting screen time and entering into more frequent real-life communication. Consider the above as “starter rules” that can be added to and taken away from in terms of what you see fit for your own family. Remember that being firm about limiting screen time will encourage more deliberate action from your teen, as well as improve your ability to spend quality time with them and maintain a healthy, communicative relationship. Their eyes probably won’t turn square from overuse, but they will certainly benefit from being more mindful with their time and energy.
However, sometimes those three rules just aren't enough and a full detox with professional help is needed! This is where Meridian Mentoring can make the difference! Check out our Life Skills tab to learn more.