I have 3 boys under the age of 9. Let’s just say self-regulation is a work in progress. As a result, we have to be on top of the “device protocol” in our home. This post gives you insight on how we manage technology at home with young kids.
It stinks because I really don’t like too many rules but we have to be strict with devices in our family.
Why? We’ve observed a decline in good behavior including an increase in impulsivity and a lack of attention & focus based on increased device use. There’s indeed a negative correlation. I don’t even need all the brain research coming out relating screen usage with higher rates of depression & attention disorders, especially amongst boys.
Our Family Technology Plan
We view technology as a self-regulation exercise in many respects. At the end of the day, like with any particularly addicting activity, creating habits and discipline around those activities gives way to freedoms otherwise lost.
We’ve tried many different approaches to managing devices, screen time, and general technology use including (but not limited to):
- Daily one limits
- Limits based on rewards or the opportunity to earn screen time
- Switching up devices (e.g. iPads versus Kindles versus laptops and so on)
Technology Ground Rules for Our Family
We also have baseline rules, which include:
✔️No devices in cars (even on road trips), airplanes, or buses. (My boys are literally the only kids on the bus without some device. It makes me so sad.)
✔️Parents are not left out of this plan. My husband & I limit our use, too. This is a family plan.
✔️No devices until school work is complete, a good dinner has been had, pjs are on, and teeth have been brushed (sometimes bathing is included). Honestly, by the time they get to the opportunity to use a devic, they’re tired, want to go to bed, & so they pass.
✔️Oh, and one more big rule in our home is no devices when friends are over. Yeah, we’re not too popular and it sounds super regimented but it’s become organic and we’re all happier.
We found success in this approach to device usage
We used to have a 30 min a day max but we found constant power struggles with it and it was exhausting. Now we add up 30 x 6 days = 180 min per week and allow them to self-regulate. So, yes, they can sit there for 180 min and use their entire allotment for the week if they choose to but they don’t get a device for the next 6 days. We’ve let them know this fact.
Minutes don’t roll over week to week. There is a weekly reset.
We keep track of the minutes using a pad of paper and pencil (gasp!) My 9 year old will hand me his device and say “21 mins, mom. I’m going to save some for the weekend when I have more time.”
We also post the ground rules in a shared space as a reminder to all of us.
Device use includes coding online and other educational tools. They often choose these activities instead of a video game.
We’ve found they use a device maybe three times a week and have not once used all 180 minutes.
I worry about my boys, depression, impulsivity, & focus issues, so add that layer to our thinking around use of devices (including show, video games, educational games, coding, etc).
We do have a family movie night on Fridays that often results in finishing on a Sat morning, which does not count towards to 180 min.
Also, if you find yourself in the thick of power struggles around device usage, I highly recommend a complete reset with devices. In other words, take a break for at least a week and then implement your strategy. Trust me, it will make a huge difference in your family.
Resources to Learn More about Techmology & the Impact on Kids
Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax
Saving Our Sons by Michael Gurian