Screens have recently become a bigger issue in our house. From virtual learning to Zoom meetings and family movie night to facetime calls, it seems as though every activity now involves some type of screen. With this pandemic, it’s not only the kids that are having too much screen time. This time at home has forced me to look at how I’m spending a lot of my time. I’ve realized that I need to set screen limits for myself.
Kids are always watching.
When you’re a parent, you have to be more aware of your actions because little eyes are always on you. They watch what you are doing, and oftentimes, want to imitate you. If you’re always on your phone, laptop, or tablet, they will want to do the same. They will see it as lots of screen time is normal behavior.
Yes, there are times when work has to be done. Sometimes, though, you can hold off on answering that call or writing that report if you are spending time with your family after work hours. Perhaps, finish what you’re doing with your kids, and then excuse yourself to make that call. Maybe try to do your work before or after bedtime.
Do you need to be that connected or informed?
Really, though, I don’t need to be on social media all the time. I don’t need to know what everyone else is doing. There is no need to check what’s on sale on my favorite site while my kids want my attention. I need to stay involved in my activities and focus on what’s around me. Which leads me to…
You miss out on the actual experiences.
It’s so easy to take photos or videos with our phones these days. Sometimes, however, you need to put it down and be in the moment. Yes, it’s important to keep mementos, like pictures, to remember experiences. However, you will remember the feelings more if you’re actually participating instead of just documenting.
So, how do you set screen limits for yourself?
First, if it’s not work-related or time-sensitive, try to put it off until your kids aren’t around. Not only will you focus more on your children, but you’ll also do better work without their distraction.
If that’s not possible and you have to do it while they are around, try to set a time limit to get it done. You can then tell your kids that you need to do work for X amount of minutes, and then you can get back to them. Perhaps you can all use your own screens at the same time and take a break together.
On nights or weekends, make an effort to put your phone out of your reach. It’s much easier for me to ignore my messages or texts if my phone is not in the same room. I also have my phone set to announce the callers, so I will know if it is a true emergency or something important.
Don’t just trade one screen for another. Sure, you may have put your phone away, but don’t just sit in front of the TV either. While our activities may be more limited with COVID, there’s still plenty to do. Go for a walk, do some coloring, or play a board game. Take a drive or do a scavenger hunt in your own backyard.
Be gentle with yourself.
As we all know, this is an unprecedented time. Maybe you’ve been using screens to keep informed or make up for actual events. So, give yourself grace as you try to set limits on screen time. It’s OK to take it slow with any behavior changes. Don’t feel guilty about too much screen time, but just be aware and try to make changes in the future.