Following my last article on screen time management, so many questions have been asked about the propriety or otherwise of setting limits to screen time. I’m pleased to provide further information about how parents should rightly view screen time limits and management. 

Screen limits involve placing limits on device usage, smartphone addiction, and mitigating social media impact on mental health. The idea is to enable parents to regain control or come to terms with the amount of time their children spend on the screens at home.

While setting limits on screen time isn’t becoming easier in today’s screen-filled world, families have difficulty deciding how much time to allow kids to play on their electronic devices. And so, there have been several misconceptions about what screen time is and what it’s not.  

Between the pro & con sides of screen time limits

It’s important to note that advocates for screen limits fall into two categories; 

In Favor:  On the Pro side of the coin are lovers and supporters of having screen limits.  Not wanting to do away with technology and devices for children, many parents agree to the idea of placing reasonable limits on children’s screen time.  This ensures that we do not throw caution to the wind while utilizing the opportunities offered by the emerging technologies in our kids’ education. 

Against: This is the Con side formed by those who are strictly against screen limits. These non-supporters argue that putting limitations on-screen time has no effective control and is therefore useless. For one thing, there are TV sets in waiting rooms, tablets in schools, smartphones in the pockets, etc. They imagine that since screens are becoming integrated into our everyday lives, no limits would provide effective control. 

On the normative side, however, you do not need to ban digital devices outright to maintain sanity in your home.  Children who grow up with electronic media learning skills are better connected to a technology-driven world.

Parents need to establish a healthy relationship with electronic equipment and devices to be able to enjoy its abundant benefits. And in this case, there’s no one-size-fits-all. It’s basically dependent on your family or situation as context paints the scene.

Balancing screentime with S.M.A.R.T. limits

In this piece, we’re not concerned about time and engagement on-screen but about reasonable screen limits. How will you determine the level of screen limits that bridge the gap between the two ends of the divide? To answer this question, I would recommend using smart screen limits.

What then constitutes smart screen limits? I’ve devised an easy way to analyze this subject using the S.M.A.R.T. acronym as follows: 

S; SCENE

The scene conveys the idea of context, the situation surrounding the limits you’re putting on screen. The scene seeks to define why there might have to be implemented limits put in place:

  • Is your child spending too much time on a gaming platform, console, or mobile game? 
  • Is Minecraft taking over your house? 
  • Does your daughter lock herself up in the room because of social media?  
  • If so, what does she see online that’s captivating her so much? Could it be her friends or some other person you don’t even realize? 

As a parent, you need to get to the root of all of these before placing limits. Else you may be shutting down their social life before you know it;- on the screen is where they find their friends. It’s the door to their world and their culture. For them, the screen is the essence of their current existence. 

For this reason, you need to see things with their eyes and from their own perspective. Embrace the idea and ‘travel’ with them as it were to their online destination. When you get there, examine and review the context of the situation and then discuss your findings with them. 

M; MODERATION

Do things in moderation, find out the right and wrong times for them to be online. Creating everything moderate for your family keeps you away from going to the opposing extremes; and away from the idea of negative limits.  

Target to be at the middle ground since everything is good in moderation. Never let your children get the impression that you are imposing negative limits as that would make the idea of limits, unreasonably limiting. Finding the balance and staying away from opposite extremes keep things a lot simpler in the home. 

A; AWARENESS

You have to be self-aware as well as become aware of what’s going on in your family. You need to know where your kids are online before you can place any limiting bounds. 

As long as you observe the scenes, and continue to operate at a reasonable degree of moderation in your home, you’ll maintain a balance that keeps you in control. At this point, you become more aware of the emotions conveyed by different devices in use, the various engagement types and the different places in the context. 

So the more you’re aware of the role technology is playing in your home. How you’re engaging with your children in that respect, the easier it becomes for you to link or clue your kids into it – what an amazing opportunity it will be for you to help them grow. The result will be an actual learning moment for everybody. 

R; RESEARCH

You must research. Doing good homework to know what the apps in use are are, the purposes they serve, and how they’re used. 

  • Research to know the new warning signs and the impending dangers lurking around the corner.
  • Understand when somebody is already breaking the code of ethics or making attempts to take down the age gates. 
  • See-through to note incursions or attempts made to reach out to people you’re not comfortable with. 

It would help if you researched whether the breach comes from the media or your children before you can put any realistic limits. Then, and only then would you have a leg to stand on to communicate limits with your kids at a level they will respect. 

T; TIME

Finally, allow some time for your foundational measures to sink in and become rooted. Remember that while everybody is carried along, everyone is learning at the same time and pace. You’re already aware that this limit is happening at the same time as it’s becoming a rule within your home. 

As an adult, you have been thinking about screen limits much longer than your kids have been given the chance to respond or come to terms with it. So give it time to sink in, and time to work out. It’s not going to happen overnight. 

Monitor your S.M.A.R.T. limits

Now that you’ve set up your smart screen limits, the next thing is to be observant and alert to notice the micro positive changes happening in your child’s behavior or even your own. Then you know that progress is being made in a positive direction. Be alert too to determine where you need to make improvements to better the smart limits.

If on the other hand, the changes you see are negative, pull back, and take a different approach. It’s an opportunity to come back to the drawing board and restrategize. 

In conclusion, use S.M.A.R.T. limits when it comes to technology in your home. 

  • Let the scene define the context of your limits, 
  • Be moderate in your settings and expectations that the limits you impose do not lose positivity. 
  • Become aware of the emotions conveyed by the devices, the engagements and the role they play in child development. 
  • Please do some research to understand more about the apps and the purposes they serve. Be alert to danger signals and were breaches to limits are coming from. 
  • Allow a reasonable amount of time for your limits to produce results. 

It is hoped that these smart measures would assist parents in scaling back on screen time while providing healthy use of technology for kids. Yes, there could be inherent dangers with screen time, but smart limits would provide the much-needed balance between the positive and the normative as parents strive to become models of healthy habits themselves. 

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