Introducing screens often begins with simple and innocent thinking like how awesome a tablet will be for helping your young person learn to read, or write or math or research, or perhaps it’s a cell phone for safety and connectivity.

And not too soon after your kiddos have got their very own device for ‘learning’ or comms with you, they’re asking to download a game they heard their friend talking about, and then next week it’s another.

I think you know where we are going with this – they’re now full blown screen aficionado, part screen fiend asking to use the device every waking moment.

Understandably you’re left feeling a tad out of your depth, it all escalated so quickly from an innocent motive to a hungry screen wanting to absorb your kid’s life. 

Whatever the screen, whether it’s a tablet, phone, laptop or desktop, gaming console it’s worth taking a very big pause and deep dive into what is really involved in your child having them.

So what to do? where will you begin? get prepared! Let us share some ideas with you to get you on your way

Setting you up for successfully introducing screens

The more prepared you are, the easier it all unfolds, and the easier it is for your child to happily work with the boundaries. The ideal is starting out with clear limits, sticking with them, and reassessing them as your young person’s needs and wants around screen time change.

Ready to start your screen time parenting journey? See if you can answer these reflective questions:
  • How old is your child? See WHO’s screen recommendations
  • What will the device be used for?
  • Have you spoken about or are prepared to talk about the adult content on the web? how will you approach sex ed before the web has a chance to?
  • What internet filtering will you use?
  • What hours of the day can they spend on it and how will you monitor it?
  • What are the tech-free zones in your home or life? i.e. bedrooms, bathrooms, dinner time, social gatherings, car rides
  • If they’re exposed to adult content how will you work through that with them? (our book Kyle the Kingfish is a great start)
  • What boundaries are you able to hold with age-appropriate content? 
  • Naturally, your kids will want to be doing what their peers are doing online, and that may be so far from what you’re ok with. How will you approach that?
  • Are you authentically ok with your child having a device or are you doing it out of fears like being “that parent” who is too strict, or that your kid may not be tech-savvy enough for where the world is heading like your kid should be able to code by kindergarten right? 
  • Is the school pushing the use of devices? How comfortable are you with it
  • Have you considered starting them out with a dumbphones/brick phone that has limited capabilities? i.e. no Wi-Fi 
  • Have you researched the apps they want to download? what are the age restrictions, and the feedback on them on app reviews or common sense media?
  • How will you ensure a balance in their life? screens can end up becoming the easy solution for behavioral management, in the coal face of busy family life and kids with unmet needs may end up using screens to self soothe instead of communicating their needs.

Once you arm your kids with their own device, it’s hard to take it back – not impossible but tricky. Ideally, you will wait until you’re feeling confident and aware of the ins and outs of your digital parenting role and what you’re getting your kid into.

Devices aren’t all bad, it really depends on the user, the device, the apps, the limits created, the age, the guidance and modeling they’ve had, and whether the parent is able to stay totally switched on when it comes to knowing what they’re doing online.

Information is Power

We recommend checking Brainwave Trusts body of research Tamariki and Technology that takes a more in-depth look into this B I G topic.

Let’s repeat, tech is not bad! It’s incredible, it’s connective, it offers freedom, information, education, and all the awesome things in between, it’s just about setting our young people up to use tech with a healthy balance.

There are somethings we will only learn on the job

You may be reading this as an afterthought, once you are in the thick of the tricky stuff, and that is perfectly normal! There is so much we learn on the job which is often the most impactful learnings. You always have the opportunity to regather your values around screens are reconsider your role and how you would like to guide your children through this.

It is never too late, to create new screen values. It may take a little more work and patience as your children readjust to the new boundaries. Young people love information, just as we do! so share share share your knowledge and why you are wanting to make changes. Books, articles, and documentaries can be brilliant resources in supporting these conversations.

If you’re questioning the status quo of screen culture, you’re on the right track!