Parents, gather round. I think we need to talk about screens. Specifically what rules you have around children and “screen-time“.
I work as a nanny for two families with primary school age children. Mostly my job is to pick the kids up from school, take them home, get them to do homework, take them to any after-school activities, and generally entertain them until their parents come home. The jobs are pretty similar, and the kids are usually great. But there is one main difference between these two families, and it revolves around “screen-time”.
Family One has no restrictions on their kids screen time once they have completed their homework. They are free to use their iPads, watch television or play on the computer as they wish. While the kids often like to flop down in front of the television after school, play on their iPads and listen to music on their iPods, they also spend time playing outside or with board games.
Family Two has a strict schedule on when and for how long their children are allowed to use their screens and devices. They are allowed limited time using devices after 5 pm, and every week they’re clock-watching for when their screen-time rolls around. They are constantly nagging me to let them use their devices early, and more than once they have snuck in a few minutes with iPads before their allocated time.
When it comes to Family Two, I seem to be always managing nagging and sneaky behaviour when it comes to screens and after speaking with the parents I know that they do too. The kids know that they are not allowed screens – but are constantly trying to bend the rules.
Parents and carers seem to be being hammered all the time about the detrimental effects of screens on kids, from fears about behavioural issues to health and social problems, so lots of families are very prohibitive about how their kids use screens. According to child psychologist Dr Kimberley O'Brien of the Quirky Kid Clinic, parents need to be cautious about the behaviour they are modelling for their children.