By Linda Stade
There is light at the end of this covid tunnel and it is glorious! Think of all the freedoms we’ll have when the restrictions are lifted. So many choices, all embraced with gratitude.
However, there are aspects of our confinement that will be difficult to just shrug off. For many families, and particularly young people, excessive screen use is one of those binds.
Technology has been very good to us over the past few months, but it is time to start putting it in its place. Parents are the ones who are going to have to steer this ship. Most kids simply don’t have the will power or development to resist the pull of all the sound, colour and movement that get their brains in such a tizz. We have to set new boundaries.
If you need motivation to face this inevitable challenge, consider the eSafety Commissioner’s solemn statement that cyberbullying has increased by 50% since the beginning of the covid restrictions. Her office is also concerned by the increase in the number of children being groomed and exploited online. These are subjects we need to talk to children of all ages about.
My concerns are about our children’s development. If we do not start to place stronger boundaries around device use, we accept a new normal that will stay with us beyond the pandemic.
We need our children to be consistently interacting with others face to face, that is where real connection occurs and where social-emotional learning happens. They need to be active for hours per day to ensure strong physical development, and we need them outside. When they’re outside in nature kids discover their own capabilities; they take safe risks and they learn from natural consequences. They also get in tune with the rhythms of the natural world which ground and calm us.
So how do we pull back screen use?
Parents need to create boundaries for children and teenagers. However, we know that just laying down a bunch of rules creates resentment and makes us feel like law enforcement. We need agreements. Agreements are discussed and negotiated. They allow all parties to understand why change needs to take place and to accept responsibility, including parents.
The following agreements can be downloaded and adjusted to suit the age and maturity of your child, and the circumstances of your family. Filling out the various sections of the agreement will prompt conversations that are useful and powerful.
For teenagers, in particular, the discussions are the most important part of this process. By explaining the issues and your concerns, and by listening to their thoughts, you are more likely to get ‘buy in’. The agreements can be revisited and renegotiated often.
The 10 Screen Agreements
1. My family is important. They love me, and they will always be there for me. It’s important we spend time together and communicate. There are also other important priorities in our lives. That’s why we don’t use devices at the following times:
When we are doing an activity together
2. At night all family devices will be kept in a central area for charging. Nobody will have a device in their bedroom. We all need uninterrupted sleep. Research shows that a device in the bedroom will interfere with sleep even if it is turned off.
3. I will accept friend requests on social media only from people I know personally. I understand there are people who do not have my best interests at heart. I also know that some people lie about their identity.
4. I will only share images of myself that I would be happy for my parents and grandparents to see. This also applies to images of others. I cannot guarantee who will see those photos or where they will end up, even if my security settings are on. My emerging sexuality is perfectly normal and to be celebrated, but not shared online.
5. I will share all passwords with my parents, knowing they will not interfere unnecessarily.
If these passwords are changed, I will update this agreement.
6. I understand that I need to meet the following responsibilities before I can use my device for recreation:
7. I will only use connected devices in open family areas. I would not invite hundreds of people into my bedroom in real life, so I will not do it online.
8. I will talk to my parents before making online purchases, even if I’m using my own money. It is easy to get carried away and there are many online scammers, it’s important to be careful.
9. Technology is a tool, not a weapon. I will never use it to hurt another person. I will never bully, speak unkindly or deliberately exclude others. If someone is unkind to me online, I will tell an adult I trust. Five adults I can talk to are:
10. You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to screen time. My parents may want to set time limits. They may also want to revise those times depending on changing circumstances. For the moment, my screen time limits are:
There will be times when my parents feel that I need a break from screens. I probably won’t like it, but I will accept it, as I know they care about my health and wellbeing.
Download your PDF version of the 10 Agreements here:
You can also download an excellent Information for Parents document from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner here: