According to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Centre, 51% of teens say their parents are sometimes distracted by their phones when talking to them. As a parent, this information made me reflect on my own screen time, and I’ve been making a conscious effort to be more mindful of when, where and how much I use my devices.
Apple’s new Screen Time feature, available as part of the recent iOS 12 software update, has been really helpful in this regard. I was eager to not only use this feature to gather insights about my own screen time, but also to validate my assumptions about my child’s screen time.
The new Screen Time feature, within ‘Settings’ on your iPhone, lets you view your screen time for the day or for the last seven days. In addition to showing total screen time, the report also offers insights into the amount of time you and your family spend using specific apps, visiting websites, and even the number of times you simply pick up the device to check the time or notifications.
One of the most powerful capabilities is setting daily screen time limits – not only do you receive notifications when time’s up, but you can set it so that your children have to request additional time when they reach their daily limit. This is a great tool for parents as the decision to grant extra screen time is up to you! I’ve since used it as a bargaining chip to get my daughter to tidy up her room or complete homework before granting extra time.
Another great feature is ‘downtime’. With this feature you can block device usage (or specific app usage) at a specific time or window of time (for example, 7pm to 7am). This setting is ideal for setting boundaries for family time or bedtime so no one is distracted. You can customize screen time limits and downtime by child as well.
Before setting any limitations for my own family, I decided to use the Screen Time feature to see how we were all using our devices. I was happy to see that my child was not using her devices between 10pm-8am and that her phone was not used at all during school hours. Additionally, I was fully aware of the apps being used regularly and the sites visited. Based on my findings I didn’t feel the need to set any limits for my daughter at this point in time.
My own usage, on the other hand, was shocking. The report was a real eye opener – and didn’t even include my Netflix binge over the long weekend or the amount of time I spend on a screen at work. It became clear that I treat my own screen time like an all-you-can-eat buffet, spending the majority of my personal screen time on Facebook, Instagram and Candy Crush. It also revealed that I check my email, calendar and messaging apps before I even brush my teeth in the morning. Ironically, after installing the iOS update, I was also spending more time in my Settings, asking myself, “did I really pick up my phone that many times today?” .
With all this said, here are some tips to help you and your family manage screen time:
- Use screens mindfully, as an activity you choose, rather than something that is on in the background. If you require background noise try listening to music, a podcast or use a white noise app to foster concentration or creative focus.
- Model good media use for your kids. Put down the phone when your child is trying to talk to you and practice what you preach. That email, text or game will still be there in five minutes. Consider turning off app notifications to avoid distractions and move your “time wasting” apps to a folder so you’re not tempted to click on them whenever you pick up your phone. Out of sight, out of mind!
- Curate your children’s media, and set household rules. Better yet, sit down together and create a family screen plan. Establish your downtime, app limits and most importantly, your content and privacy restrictions as a family.