Screen time: what I need to do to set a better example

Screen time: a close-up of a smartphone in a man's hand.

A couple of weeks ago, we were on the bus to my parents’ house. When we got off, another passenger tapped me on the shoulder. At first, I thought I must have left something behind so I was pleasantly surprised by what he said.

He told me that it was lovely to see two parents paying attention to their kids rather than their phones. Now, I’m not sharing this anecdote to show off. Far from it.

While it was really nice to receive a compliment like that, it made me realise that there are times when I’m not setting such a good example.

A report published today recommends that, among other measures, mobile devices are banned from dinner tables. And this is an area requiring improvement from us.

Generally, we’re very good at limiting the kids’ screen time and specifically don’t allow them to use their tablets at the table. But we’re guilty of using ours over breakfast.

It’s only at breakfast and not during other family meals, but that’s probably the worst time of day to do so. It’s an easy trap to fall into – it’s the first time we sit down each day and there’s a natural desire to find out what’s going on in the world.

I also check my emails on my phone as I sometimes receive early-morning requests to appear on radio interviews about parenting topics. And, yes, it still feels weird that this seems to have become part of my job!

While our reasons for using our devices at the table aren’t the worst, it still sets a poor example. Whether we like it or not, we’re demonstrating double standards as well as teaching the wrong lesson about screen time.

Other recommendations include never assuming children are happy for photos to be shared. Again, this is something I need to get better at.

Oldest has become a little more self-conscious than his siblings, so I always ask his permission. His six-year-old brother is the exact opposite, so I probably don’t ask him as often as I should.

And their sister is only three years old and too young to understand so I don’t ask her at all. And, of course, I’ve been blogging about all of them for eight and a half years.

Without realising it when I started, I’ve created digital footprints for all of them. I dread the day when they ask to create social media accounts so, again, there’s an element of inconsistency in my approach.

Of course, I’m not comparing like with like here. I’m very careful about what I share in a way that children simply aren’t capable of, but I still feel guilty.

I’m not going to beat myself up about it as it’s done now. But I’m going to resolve to do more to set a good example.

I’ll check my emails while making breakfast and have the radio on in the background for the news. Unless I’m on the radio, of course!

I’ll also ask my kids’ permission to use photos of them. Similarly, I’ll use images that don’t include them as much as possible on my blog.

How about you? Do you limit your kids’ screen time and, for that matter, your own?

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