04-30-2020 02:30 PM - edited 04-30-2020 02:33 PM
Ask a Child and Family Professional
"Managing screen time: What is the right balance of screen time and how do I put limits in place when I feel my son is spending too much time gaming or on electronic devices? "
Screen time is one of those issues that inevitably causes conflict in the home and an excellent site to help you understand the issue is https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents
However, each family is different and when we look at gaming and screen time from the perspective of our teens there are a few complicating factors to consider that may help you to decide how to manage.
COMPLICATING FACTOR 1 – BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
Adults have the benefit of a fully matured brain that operates primarily from their cognitive and pre-frontal cortex to problem-solve and make rational decisions and choices. Teens on the other hand, operate primarily from their emotional brain, making choices and decisions based on what ‘feels’ good. And for them – gaming feels good – it is a fun escape from the pressures of being a teenager and keeps them connected with their tribe.
TIP – Look beyond the gaming and social media to the need your teen is trying to meet. Is it escape? Is it connection? Acknowledge you understand how important it is for them to escape, connect, etc. and start a conversation about how they may be able to do this in other ways - more time catching up with a friend in the park is far more appealing than spending less time on the screen.
COMPLICATING FACTOR 2 – READING EMOTIONS
Teens read conflict and battle on their parent’s faces – even if it is not there. Many parents tell us that no matter how they phrase requests to their teens it often escalates quickly to arguing and hostility. In many instances, due to the rewiring of teen brains, they legitimately see anger and hostility in your face and feel under attack. Try not to think of your teen as being oppositional… as frustrating as this is to parents, it will pass.
TIP – Build a foundation of ‘screens are not enemy’. Talk positively about gaming and screen time and join in/ask questions when possible, whether you find it fun or not - this will give you ‘credits in the bank’ when it comes to having those difficult conversations. Be mindful of your body language, tone and facial expression and when you think you are presenting as friendly, calm and collected, turn it up even further! This will give you the best shot at being heard without triggering an emotional response in your teen.
COMPLICATING FACTOR 3 - SLEEP
Teen’s sleep cycle can change up to 3 hours. If they fell asleep naturally at 8:30pm previously, this can now shifts to 11:30pm. No amount of cajoling can change this; it is simply biological. And when sleep doesn’t come naturally, we all tend to reach for our devices as a distraction. Teens are influenced by the routines in the home, so if parents watch Netflix until late, or work online, or catch up on Facebook, so will teens.
TIP – Approach screen-time as a family issue, rather than a teen issue, something that everyone struggles with at times. Owning and sharing the problem aligns us with our teens and invites solutions from the family for the family - shifting the focus of the conversation from judgement, blaming/shaming or punishment, to one of understanding, compassion and compromise.
Child & Family Professional, The Benevolent Society
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