Managing kids’ screen time is a thorny issue for any parent, but it can be especially challenging when you’re co-parenting. When your child’s time is split between two households, coordinating your screen time policies can be tough enough, but enforcing them is a separate challenge of its own. So how do you navigate the rapids of your kid’s digital life when you’re sharing custody?
Managing Screen Time While Co-Parenting
With all the issues facing parents and kids today, it can be tempting to choose hills other than screen time to die on. The reality is that too much screen time can take a profound toll on your child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Studies have shown, for example, that the blue light emitted from digital devices can lead to eye strain, insomnia, disturbed sleep, and even hyperactivity and a shortened attention span.
The effects of too much screen time are more than just physical, however. Research suggests that children who spend a significant amount of time on their digital devices may be at higher risk for developing anxiety and depression. They also appear to be more likely to have behavioral challenges, including aggression and combativeness. They may also be more disposed to self-isolate and can have difficulty in making friends and maintaining healthy relationships.
In other words, there is ample data to support the idea of regulating your child’s screen time to protect their mental, physical, and emotional health.
Make a Plan
Anyone who has ever tried to co-parent knows that you can’t simply leave the fine details of your child’s life to chance. Nor can you assume that the standard that prevails in your home will automatically convey to the home of the other parent.
Nevertheless, there’s perhaps nothing worse for a child, nor is there anything more conducive to conflict, than having one set of rules in one parent’s home and another in the other. This is why consistency in house rules and consequences is key when it comes to managing your child’s screen time.
Collaborate and Communicate
When you’re working with your child’s other parent to establish the shared house rules on screen time, it’s important to be both concrete and specific. This means figuring out the logistics before you introduce your little one to the plan.
If, for instance, you’re allowing two hours per weekday for screen time, then how is that to be divided if your child is spending part of the day in one house and part in another? Will you allow one hour in each home? Likewise, what is the strategy for weekends? Does your little one get more time or the same amount?
Additionally, you have to consider the question of consequences. If you or the other parent finds your kid exceeding their allotted time, what happens? Is there a punishment or is that time simply deducted from the next day’s allotment?
Again, this can raise some challenges if one parent is made to enforce consequences for infractions earned on the other parent’s watch. Indeed, depending on your particular custody arrangement, this may well force one parent into the unenviable position of becoming the disciplinarian for the other.
This is where having a clear, concise, and age-appropriate parenting plan, one that addresses these fine nuances and is thoroughly understood by all parties, especially your child, is so important.
When you’re trying to regulate the amount of time your child spends staring at a screen each day, you might not consider how much of that time is being spent on homework. How much homework children should be assigned continues to be debated, as is the question of whether homework should be banned entirely.
For the present, however, homework remains central to the curricula of the majority of school systems. If your child’s homework time is included in their daily screen time allotment, though, that can be a problem. They may, for example, rush through their assignments or simply fail to complete them.
Because of this, it may be necessary to exclude study time from your child’s allotment. This means, however, that you’ll need to use other approaches to mitigate the risks that are associated with the use of digital devices.
For example, you and your child’s other parent may require that your kid take a 10-minute break, getting up and moving around (and talking to people), after every 30 minutes spent on the device. Similarly, you might establish a devices-off rule to take effect at least three hours before bedtime.
Managing your kid’s screen time may not be easy when you’re co-parenting, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. The key, however, is consistency, communication, and collaboration. Your child needs to understand the rules and the consequences and both parents must be prepared to enforce those rules, no matter where or with whom the child may be.
Image Source: Pixabay