In This Together

What is your favourite tip or guideline about screen time in your family?
Thank you to all the parents who submitted a screen time tip last week – we had a fantastic response and have many great words of wisdom from lots of different families across the school. So a big thank you to you all!

The tips covered all sorts of different areas about managing screen time and included ideas about weeknight TV, phones in bedrooms, family dinners, managing Snapchat streaks, Netflix in the bathroom... and much, much more! In the main, these tips are being used with children from Year 3-10.

So here are your Top 7 tips for managing screen time with 8-16 year olds:

1. Designate ‘tech free’ time in your family:
Many families designate specific ‘tech free’ time within their family – in different ways, and at different times, but all suggest that it changes the nature of the conversation in the house and calms things down.

  • No screen Sunday - for parents too! House much calmer as a result.
  • No phones at the dinner table – ever!
  • The past year I have “looked after” the children’s phones whilst on holidays and whilst they groan and moan initially, they acknowledge that it has been liberating and relaxing not being tethered to them and they have read books, played cards and all of those other things.
  • Lid down day - Wednesday and/or Sunday.

2. Be a good role model yourself:
Our kids learn so much from the example we set for them by our own behaviour.

  • Make sure you model good screen time behaviours: no phones at the table, whilst driving or a passenger in a car or when spending time with friends. I was surprised how guilty I was of this. The kids call me on this also.
  • We have to lead by example!
  • A shared family charging station that we ALL have to use at the end of each evening.

3. Make sure the rules are clear and consistent:
As children get older, a number of parents commented on the importance of talking with the whole family about what the rules are and then making sure you stick to them!

  • Important to pre-agree screen time rules well in advance.
  • Discuss what “screen time” is with your children and negotiate it with them rather than dictating.
  • Particularly when students are involved in a computer game, they can lose track of time. Give them a warning 10 minutes before screen time is ending.
  • Set up and agree all the rules for usage, monitoring of accounts, where and when screen time is allowed.
  • We switch off our WiFi modem at a certain time in the evening - always advertised in advance and the actual time would often change depending on what is happening on the day.

4. Sleep is absolutely pivotal
We are hearing more and more about the importance of sleep in maintaining our health and wellbeing in the long term. As I heard a teacher say last week, “Do you want to do better at school, be a better learner and feel better in yourself by doing absolutely nothing at all? Then go to sleep!” So how do we help kids do this?

  • At least an hour of ‘screen free time’ before bedtime on week nights. We are doing this too and it makes such a difference!
  • No screens/phones in rooms overnight.
  • Have one place in the living area to charge phones and request that phones are in the charging area from a certain time (eg 7.00pm or 9.00pm). This ensures phones are out of the bedroom for study and sleep times. If they need to use the phone they must come to the charging area (eg in the living room).
  • All devices (phones, school tablets etc - including the parents' devices) must be charged in a central spot downstairs overnight. We aim to have the phones there from dinner time onwards.

5. Could you replace screen time with other activities?
There were a number of suggestions about the importance of other family activities, especially with younger children.

  • Making Family time more interesting than Screen Time and ensuring during this time there are no screens available to anyone, including parents.
  • Friday night board games and pizza is a great way to get the family together and screens off. It might be old fashioned ... but it works.
  • Engaging young children in exercise and other hobbies on the weekend really helps take their mind off playing computer games and watching TV!

6. Can technology help you?
Some families use different third party parental controls, different WiFi connections and different phone plans to assist in managing access to the internet at home.

  • Have a separate, ‘kids only’ Wifi on a timer for which only you know the password.
  • We make sure our children are on prepaid phone plans so data is limited each month. Once they have used it, there is no more allowed.
  • We use third party parental controls to help maintain the rules – there are lots of great products out there. If the girls want extra wifi time they have to ask/text us at work etc and we can add from our phones.
  • Telco's can give you an itemised bill. I don’t think spying and excess checking up is always a good first step, but knowing I can do this helps our girls self-regulate when they know that any SMS they might sneak and send after "phones down" time will show up when the next bill arrives.

7. Don’t be afraid to set limits ... and then follow through!
Every family is different, so it is important to find the ways that work best for you to set the limits ... but then you have to follow through.

  • The girls do lose their phones completely after school or for a day or two if they break the rules. The most common infraction is having the phone in their room at night or spending even longer than usual in the bathroom (and that is really saying something!!) ... as they are on Netflix!!
  • Non-negotiable clearly defined and agreed rules for when screen time is allowed are a must! And you must agree on the consequences upfront when these are broken too.
  • A few months ago Snapchat was becoming a real problem in our house (particularly the "streaking"). To encourage the children in our house to reduce their time on Snapchat we instigated a rule that if there are more than 30 "snaps/streaks" sent or received in a 24 hour period otherwise, they lost use of their phone for the next 24 hour period. When first implemented there were numerous days on which the phones were confiscated. We now rarely have issues.

Thank you again to all the families who submitted a screen time tip last week! And if you missed the opportunity to participate this time, perhaps it is a question you could ask the parents of your daughter’s friends sometime... what screen time tips do they have that might work well for you too?

You will also see in this edition of Behind the Green Gate a very informative article from our Director of ICT, Ken Emeleus, on how to monitor your child's Internet usage.

Holly Gyton
Deputy Head of School