Too Much Screen Time? Get Balance Back, With No Stress

If screen time feels like a losing battle, time to reassess.

Do you worry about your child’s screen time?

Would your kids play games or watch shows forever if you let them? Do they get upset when it’s time to turn it off? It has you worried, doesn’t it?

In this episode, Carol and Anne share that the key is not limiting screen time out of fear, but finding the right balance from an empowered place. Listen in to hear how to balance screen time just right for your family.

This episode’s Parenting Practice

This week, take an inventory of your child’s screen time—and your own. Have a family counsel to make decisions together about what you want your experience with screen time to be. Then create the changes that you’re inspired to make and stick with it.

Transcript of podcast episode

Carol: That’s no different than the television. It’s a screen. It’s you, head down, looking at a screen.

Anne: Oh, I’ve had my kids come and shut my computer and be like, “Mom, enough.”

Carol: Welcome to The Child Whisperer Podcast. I’m your host, Carol Tuttle, author of the best-selling parenting book, The Child Whisperer. I’m with my co-host, Anne Tuttle Brown.

Anne: This week’s question comes from a Type 2 mom. “I have a Type 3 five-year-old who seems addicted to games. I think the excitement and the action of the games appeals to his Type 3. I only let him play for about 45 minutes per day. But the rest of the day, he’s thinking about the game, talking about the game, telling me what he’s going to do on the game tomorrow, begging to play more, throwing tantrums when I won’t let him play more. It’s getting ridiculous. I’m inclined to cut him off cold turkey and give him some time to detox and come up with other things he can do. I just don’t know what to do with him. My Type 4 husband also struggles with game addictions, so I really want to stop this early. I’m just at a loss.”

Carol: She’s pegged it as an addiction. So, the first thought is, it is a part of our day-to-day lifestyle now. Screens, tablets, smartphones, television, monitors, computer screens. It’s a part of our lifestyle. So, it’s not going away. And there’s so many benefits to it. There’s a lot of value we get out of it. And so, again, it’s that balance. So, today’s show, we’re going to teach you some tips on how to create balance with the screen time. And so, maybe your frustration is really with your husband first, and now you’re seeing signs of this in your child. So, you maybe, out of fear, wanting to try and stop something because of evidence it could turn into an extreme, like your husband’s practice with video games and such.

So, think of what you’re…are you being proactive or are you trying to prevent? So, right away, switch from, “I’m scared. I’m at a loss. I don’t want this to happen,” to “I’m going to create a balanced experience with my children’s screen time.” A proactive approach from a positive place. Because your fear will actually provoke your child in doing overs with it, that you’re saying, you know, you basically said, “I feel like my child is doing overs,” based on the examples you gave. Do you respond to their conversations favorably when they’re talking about their game? Do you try and change the subject? You don’t wanna hear it? You’re fed up with your husband so now you don’t wanna hear it from your child? Or do you just have a fun conversation, a delightful conversation around, “Oh, you like that about the game? What do you like best about it?” Do you support the conversation?

Anne: I imagine it probably goes in cycles. Like, you try to be supportive but if it’s every day.

Carol: Yeah. Like, be supportive. I can tell this parent’s coming from a place of, “Oh, no. Oh, no.” And not really…to have their five-year-old talking about video games. So, in her point of view, excessively. So, what I’m suggesting is, go with it a little bit more favorably rather than being so…she’s opposed to it.

Anne: I had a friend that went to a video gaming conference in San Diego with her son for two days and she was like, “It’s this thing. I don’t get it and I hate it.” But she, you know, she honored, she like, “I’m gonna go and I’m gonna explore with him. I’m gonna see what he loves about it.” He was loving it. A 12-year-old boy.

Carol: You know, the most watched YouTube creator…

Anne: I’ve seen them. My nephews watch it. He plays video games. And they watch him play video games. And he has the perfect dialogue.

Carol: The most watched of any YouTube creator…

Anne: Guy’s got it made. He just plays video games. It’s amazing.

Carol: Billions of views. So, it’s a thing.

Anne: It is part of our world.

Carol: You’re probably going, “Dang it. I don’t want that to be my child’s thing.”

Anne: I think she’s doing a good job. Only 45 minutes a day. Kids spend hours.

Carol: Well, I’m gonna throw this out there. Maybe if it’s a thing for him, maybe she could go to an hour. What if she got on board with it a little? Maybe it’s not balanced for what it needs to be by, it’s not enough and she’s trying to keep reducing it. She’s opposed to it, see? What if the balance was an hour? What if it was okay? What would the child do?

Anne: Every couple of days, yeah.

Carol: “I’m gonna increase your screen time to an hour.”

Anne: Maybe one day a week there was no limit. See how far he can go. I don’t know. It’s an experiment. I think that’s a great suggestion. Experiment, not just with cutting it down. With giving more.

Carol: A little bit more than—with the understanding…

Anne: And tell yourself…because she’s a Type 2 parent, so she’s probably like, “Is this what it’s gonna look like forever?” Say, for a week, I’m just gonna experiment. I’m gonna see what it would look like if I give an hour, an hour and a half a day, okay? And I’m just…

Carol: It looks like if I let him do whatever he wants…Oh no. It’s scary.

Anne: Yeah. If she’s coming from this place of what’s gonna happen, she’s gonna go down that rabbit hole Type 2 thinking of like, “He’s gonna play video games for 24 hours a day.” You know? “He’s never gonna leave my house. All he’s gonna do is play video games when he’s an adult.”

Carol: He’ll have no productive skills. Yeah.

Anne: I think that’s a good suggestion. Try upping it, see what happens. And just know, “Okay. I’m just gonna do it for one week or two weeks, and then come back to it and reassess.”

Carol: Well, in her eyes, by his being excessive about all he wants to do, all he talks about, what if you did increase it and there’s more balance…yeah. Well, no, it’s just like I’m satisfied. I don’t need to keep bringing this up.

Anne: Yeah. And she doesn’t have to hear about it all the time.

Carol: Yeah. And the child’s old enough to be able to say, “I’m gonna increase your screen time and your playtime. And what I want from you is, you know, what I’d like to experience more from you is that we talk about other things, too. I want to create balance with this.”

Anne: You know, maybe he could become a millionaire by doing YouTube videos down the line.

Carol: The odds on that one are slim.

Anne: Did you know that there are video gaming conferences where people are making money playing video games? They’re making more money than even NBA players and NFL players. And it’s amazing. It’s the new games. It’s crazy.

Carol: One of my friend’s son, Wayne, competed at one. Yeah. It’s a world. It’s a world, folks. It’s happening.

Anne: I don’t have boys that age, so I’m kind of out of that world, but it really is. It’s a big deal. But, you know what, I’ve got kids who like TV and movies and their iPads. And so, this is something that constantly you’re creating that balance because it’s easy to let them just go for it. It’s a great babysitter. It’s a convenience, right?

Carol: Let’s go to the other extreme. You know it’s out of control. There’s too much of it. And so…

Anne: How do you know? You just know, because you’re like…

Carol: Yeah. I think it’s an intuitive, again, is it from a proactive, what’s healthy place versus, “I’m scared. I’ve gotta prevent something”? So, from a proactive, very intuitive place of, “I’m really getting a sense this is out of balance. We need to bring more balance to this,” that, again, is your intuition as a parent in operation. And you need to create balance with this in your family. It’s a go-to too often. Your children don’t have enough time or they’re not choosing animated play or creative play or getting outdoors, you know? How many people play video games unless they’re on a tablet of some kind outside? But you’re usually not running around, you know? You’re fixated on a screen. So, compared to their other activities, then you’d know if it’s too much. There’s not enough just open play, outside play, creative play.

Anne: They’re teaching kids at school how to use technology, and my daughter came home with a worksheet. It was on a paper but it had a keyboard on it and she was finding where the letters were on the keyboards and they were teaching her how to use a tablet. And so, these are not going away. So, the school system’s going to teach them how to use them and they’ll be using them. And I believe it’s my job as a parent to teach the balance and how to use them appropriately.

Carol: Some of your other big YouTube players are educational channels, you know? Some of your cat, the…

Anne: Oh, my daughter learned her ABCs on PBS Kids, “Super WHY!” One day, she started rattling them out. Glad you had them watching that.

Carol: You’ve got Khan Academy who just on his own is a YouTube creator, started producing videos because his child needed tutoring. He was picked up by Bill Gates’ non-profit and now fund it so it could be more accessible worldwide. So, again, the benefits are huge. We all know that. It’s just balance, like anything. How do you strike a balance? So, let’s give you a few tips for balance.

So first, notice how much you’re on your own phone. That’s no different than the televisions. It’s a screen. It’s you, head down, looking at a screen.

Anne: Oh, I’ve had my kids come and shut my computer and be like, “Mom, enough.” My Type 3 daughter. “You can’t be on your computer for two more weeks.” I go, “That’s gonna be a problem, but I can get off now.” No, definitely. There have been times where I always have my phone by me in case a text comes in or…I’ve put my own limits on when I get on social media. I’m home with my kids, with the days I don’t work, I commit not to get on social media because it will be a distraction to me. I don’t wanna be sitting there scrolling on my phone while my children are there, because I don’t think that’s appropriate. And also if my kid was doing that while someone else was there, I’d be like, “Get off your phone and be with the person.” So, am I showing that that’s our standard?

Carol: Key times, also. Saying goodbye to your children when they’re off for school, picking them up, greeting them. Those interactions where you are connecting again. You’re talking to your child and the text comes in, you look at your phone during the conversation. Things like that are just small habits that you need to tweak because it’s showing I have control over this, I have a say over it, and I’m in charge of it. It’s not in charge of me. That’s all modeling and your management of these devices.

Second tip would be to have a family counsel and discuss how are we doing. Do you kids feel it’s too much? What are the benefits? What are some of the side effects by doing too much? So that they become aware of that. They’re going, “I have ability to say…” You want your child to be able to say, just like with healthy food choices, what’s this doing to my body, how do I feel about this time that I’m giving to this? Is it supportive to me, overall?

Anne: Part of that conversation could be, what are other things we could do besides screen time? Because I find that’s often just the easy reaction, go to your phone or turn on a show. What are some other things? And, you know, invite some creative thinking and have things set up for that. I’ve got Play-Doh really accessible, where my kids can pull it out and play. At the ages that they’re at, I’ll help prompt these different activities, but now it’s kinda routine and they know, “These are the other options that we have when we wanna sit down and do a show.”

Parenting practice for this week is to take an inventory of your child’s screen time. Have this family counsel. And then, create the changes that you’re inspired to make and stick with it.

Carol: That’s a great follow up after listening to this. And it’s not a one-and-done thing. You might have to do it once a month, because it is a part of our lifestyle now. And so, to get your children involved in that conversation and assessing where are we at, how we’re doing, what changes do we wanna make so that they feel motivated because they’re not just being told what to do. They’re being a part of the decision. Creating family culture as you create balance with screen time.

Thanks for listening. For more support, go to thechildwhisperer.com, where you can purchase the book, subscribe to our weekly parenting practice e-mail, and find the transcription and audio of “The Child Whisperer Podcast.”

Anne: If you’re listening on iTunes, thank you for leaving a review. If you have a parenting question, please send it to [email protected].

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