OK, nothing will stop them dead. But this mum’s simple hack could change your life.
When there’s a tween or teen in the house, endless negotiations over screen-time are completely normal - and completely draining. But minimising the stress for everybody - mum and dad included - may be easier than you think.
Or so one mum found when she was driven to desperate measures …
“At the beginning of this school year, my husband and I found ourselves arguing yet again with our 13-year-old son about what was a reasonable amount of time to spend on technology.
“He was going on and on about how strict we were when it came to technology usage relative to his friends parents and how we only focused on all the bad," she related on parenting site parentingteensandtweens.com.
Sound familiar? Cyber experts remind us that the age-old “but all the other kids are allowed!” scam is no more accurate when it comes to screen-time than it is for under-age drinking, staying home alone or watching R-rated films.
The mum in this case had heard her son’s pleas for “just ten more minutes, pleeeease!” once too often. Something snapped.
But short of conducting an investigation into the screen-time rules of your child’s entire friendship group - which actually isn’t a bad idea, only an impractical one - parents are often at a loss to refute it.
And against their better judgment, it can make mums and dads doubt themselves - or even feel guilty that their child is missing out.
The mum in this case had heard her son’s pleas for “just ten more minutes, pleeeease!” once often. Something snapped.
She heard herself blurting out, “Fine, if you think we are so strict and unfair, then you can set your own screen-time limits this year.”
She couldn’t quite believe what she’d said. Nor could her stunned husband. Were they really ready to drop the reins - just like that?
“By the time our kids are teenagers, we have to start transitioning from making decisions and setting limits for them, to teaching them how to do this for themselves. A key part of this is helping them understand the ‘why.’
Before her son could respond, she hastily improvised a deal. She told him there would be no screen-time at all for the rest of the school year - until he presented his parents with a “reasonable” schedule.
“But this didn’t mean he could scribble some random number on a piece of paper and hand it to us,” she explained. “He would be heading to high school next fall and it was time he began to show us that he could make informed choices.”
And that would mean using some screen-time to research the issue of teen tech use, diving into the diversity of expert opinions and scientific data.
Both parents agreed that, as long as he based his recommendation for healthy screen-time on solid evidence, they would accept his number.
Their rationale? “By the time our kids are teenagers, we have to start transitioning from making decisions and setting limits for them, to teaching them how to do this for themselves. A key part of this is helping them understand the ‘why.’
“It’s no longer, ‘I will or won’t do this because mom and dad say so.’ It’s ‘I will or won’t do this because I now have the knowledge to decide the pros and cons for myself.’”
So smart - and so obvious. Yet also so easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day of parenting a teen.
So what limits did this 13-year-old boy set for himself? You will not be surprised to learn that, in his mum’s words, it was “not that different than what we already had in place.
“But he felt more in control and ultimately he enforces the limits more strictly than we ever did - because when time was up the only person to negotiate with was himself.”
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