Livvy Gormally is a Children’s Behaviour Expert and Parent Coach, mum of 3 and the founder of Let’s Ask Livvy. She offers personalised and child specific advice, skills and support to enabling parents to cope with their everyday parenting challenges. From tantrums to fussy eating, separation anxiety to anger management, Livvy has over 20 years’ experience as a behaviour specialist.
With the holidays looming, and as children want to use a screen more and more – she gives us some much needed tips on how to manage our childrens screen time.
Take it away Livvy…
I think that most parents try really hard to expose their kids to a broad range of activities each day and often feel guilty that TV or screen time makes up part of this diet. TV and screens are very much part of our lives and so our rules and attitudes towards TV and screens need to adapt to reflect this.
How much TV or screen time your child has is a very personal choice and it is important to consider your own family when creating your family rule. All children respond in different ways screens so this, together with parental choice should be the guide-getting the balance right for your family is most important thing.
If you are finding it challenging to set TV and screen time rules for your family, it might help to consider the following:
Do you class TV as screen time or just phone/tablet? Is reading with a kindle screen time? What if your child was asked to research their homework topic or complete an online maths challenge? How about if you are cooking together and following an online recipe, a yoga class or a guitar lesson? These cross overs happen so often in everyday life, and even if we might be able to classify them as educational vs. non-educational or good vs. not so good, our children may not and this can lead to confusion and conflict. So, it is important to consider these factors when creating your family rules.
Look closely at content-some Apps and programs have a stimulating effect on kids and some a calming effect so monitor content closely and set clear rules on what games, Apps, content the kids are allowed to access. Your baby may enjoy the bright colours, shapes, movements and sounds on baby TV, but you may want to avoid this type of visual or auditory stimulation just before you want them to take a nap. Whereas, if your toddler is exhausted from pre-school and needs to chill while you make lunch, an episode of two of their favourite program may help them unwind but stay stimulated enough not to fall asleep!
If you are experiencing challenging behaviours such as reduced focus or listening, difficulties transitioning etc during or after TV or screen time look at content, how much and how often screen time is accessed. Monitoring TV and screen time and the effects it has on your children allows you to set realistic and age appropriate TV and screen time rules that work for you. Screens can be all consuming, so although you may have called the kids 5 times to tea, they may not have processed these instructions and feel confused by your frustration at not being listened to. If you want to deliver a message, make sure that you have the child’s full attention first.
Screen time can be highly motivating and can work very well when incorporated into reward systems. For example, “once you have finished your tea you can have some iPad time” can be more effective than “if you don’t eat your tea then no iPad”.
Pre-agreeing a realistic end time is important. If you have agreed 5 minutes of screen time, but their favourite program lasts 6 minutes, or they cannot complete their game within that timeframe this is will always end in conflict. It is important to be realistic-and think how you would react if someone turned Poldark off with 5 minutes to go.
“Negotiating Down” is an effective strategy for children who always try to get a few extra minutes. If you say 5 minutes and they say how about 10? You say 4, they say 9, you say 3 its amazing how quickly they jump to settle on the original offer of 5 minutes.
Clear boundaries are really important as shifting boundary rules are really hard for kids to understand and follow. Shifting boundaries tend to lead to more behavioural issues as the kids try to work out what made you shift the last time.
Most importantly please try to remember that managing screen time is a relatively new thing in the parenting world, most parents are trying really hard to get it right for their kids, so be kind to yourselves and please do get in touch if you would like some family specific strategies.
If you have any specific concerns or questions, get in touch with Livvy yourself!