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Screen time limits

  • 16-01-2024 1:32pm
    Registered Users Posts: 8,966 ✭✭✭


    My 14 year old son has a bit of screen addiction. I am reasonably strict and there is lots of fighting, tantrums over it.

    Roughly during school term he gets;

    * 2 hours per day for phone. His main app's are snapchat and tic-toc (little more at weekends). He gets unlimited spotify, chess and whatsapp. He is allowed it in his room but not after 10.00 pm

    * 2 hours screen time for fortnite on Friday and Saturday evenings and maybe an hour on Sunday.

    I use google family link and MS family centre to enforce the limits which he regularly hacks and then I have to change passwords, reset everything and there's a massive fight.

    Could you tell me what your limits are for your teen's roughly? He claims no-one has limits like him.

    I have noticed since he has more into screen's, he loses interest in everything else. When he hacks the limits, he would be on everything between 4 - 8 hours. There is no self control whatsoever.

    This is the biggest cause of fights in the house so would appreciate any help. In general my view is moderation is the key point, have explained this until I am blue in the face.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14 Buttercup10

    It doesn't take them long to get around family link and the like. Our eldest got a phone at 12 (gift from her dad, I'd have rathered hold off til 14ish) got around parental controls almost immediately, and would literally do nothing else if left to her own devices. We just made it clear what the time limit was and once it was up she handed over phone. Don't give extra time, ever, or you'll be plagued for it all day, every day. 15 now and not as addicted to it as before. It gets easier.

  • Registered Users Posts: 595 ✭✭✭taxAHcruel

    Did it get any better in the end OP? It has been some time since your post.

    I can only speak for myself of course - but I know that if something like this got to the level of multiple or ongoing "tantrums and fights" in our house then I would be removing that something entirely. Not trying to moderate it - and certainly not using third party tools like screen time controllers to moderate it for me. I would be removing it entirely - working on my parenting and where I failed in my parenting that led to the situation - and when me and the child(ren) are back in a good place looking to moderately reintroduce the thing that was removed and watching closely to see if they were now matured and ready for it this time.

    When things are not yet at the point of "tantrums and fights" however I tend to try and take a more positive approach than negative to things like this. That is rather than saying "You can not do X" or "You do to much of X you need to reduce that" - I take a more "You can do as much of X as you want but only if you are doing a minimum amount of A B C too". And if they manage to do A B and C then I think they are in a good place even if I still think they are maybe doing a little too much of X. But anyway doing A B and C means they have less time for X anyway.

    An example of this:

    With phone or gaming use for example - I would tend to tell my kids that I expect a certain amount of study from them a week. A certain amount of jujitsu. A certain amount of working on some hobby (like a guitar for example). And a certain amount of exercise and a certain amount of chore/housework. And their grades have to remain above a certain standard.

    If they do all that then they can do as much phone/gaming as they want. I might personally think they are doing too much phone/gaming (I don't as it happens I am lucky, I am just making up this particular example to show how I would go about it, phones have not been an issue in my house with my four kids, and we do not own a television) but as long as they are reaching those other standards I have set them then I grant them that freedom to over use the thing I would want them to use less of. I believe in giving children certain freedoms even when they use that freedom in a way I might be personally negative towards.

    I also couple this philosophy with a lot of retrospective penalties. So rather than saying "if you do X too much I am going to do this thing you won't like" I wait for things in their life that they want, or want to happen in a certain way, and I go the other way and retrospectively blame their behavior for my decision. Mainly I tend away from threats and coercion and towards natural consequences. It means I am less telling them what to do and how to do it - and more giving them the freedom to do what they want but ensuring they understand the consequences and results of that.

    An example of this:

    Some time ago two of my kids did not want to brush their teeth. They were really bad at doing it and I did not want to stand over them demanding they do it three times a day. Knowing they would only do it if I demanded it and therefore I would spend years telling them three times a day to do it. And they wouldn't do it each time I dropped the ball on demanding it.

    I also did not want to go with threats or coercion as I said above. I hear other parents say "Brush your teeth or no treats at the weekend" and so on and so on. Which often does not work. But worse many parents give in and give those treats at the weekend. And my own parenting I always wanted to avoid the mistake of making threats or promises I do not follow through on. In my own experience at least that is parental suicide. Especially as threats tend to escalate over time and therefore the potential to follow through on them goes down.

    So instead I told my kids "Ok that's your choice. If you do not want to brush your teeth fine. I won't ask you to do it again" and I left it at that. They probably even thought they won in that moment.

    However cue a few days later they asked for X Y or Z in the supermarket and I simply said "Id love to get you that actually. I know you like it and it makes you happy. But.... you know.... as a parent my job is to look after your teeth and since you made the choice about not brushing your teeth I can't in good conscience buy that thing for you any more". And I simply left it at that. Similar happened 2 or 3 times after that including how they wanted to go to Funderland and I said "I love that place, would love to take you, but man its all fast food and sweets and I really can't be taking you to that kind of place given your choices about your dental hygiene. My hands are tied. I just can't do it."

    And as soon as they saw the pattern - without a single word or demand from me - they suddenly made three times brushing their teeth a day their own choice and habit. And only when I saw the habit in place over some time did I start to phase out my reaction to their previous choice. I did not go for / fall for the "Ok daddy we will start brushing our teeth we promise - just take us to Funderland today" speeches. Talk is too cheap and kids are naturally master manipulators at times. I let them establish a new precedent on their own freedoms and I responded accordingly to that. They missed Funderland that year. They very much enjoyed it, the fast food, the sweets, and more the next year.

    Not sure if any of that helps you. As I said I only speak for me and my own parenting and I never say what others should or should not do. But all of the above approaches have worked well for me. Sometimes my approaches take more effort and investment upfront and seem hard to me. But the alternative over a long period of time means the overall effort and investment and conflict is much less for me.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,966 ✭✭✭Tim Robbins

    Only update:

    * He is still on two hours Fri and 2 hours sat for Fortnite.

    * Found out his school ipad - which is supposed to be an educational device, he goes down youtube rabbit holes regularly and there's pretty much nothing you can do.

    * Phone time reduced to 1.5 hours per day. Within that time, social media time limited.

    In addition,

    * no phones or school ipads in room after 9.45

    * started doing challenges, so he has to do 5 per week to get his screen time. Currently they are:

    -> housework e.g. 20 mins hoovering

    -> reading e.g. 3 chapters of a book over a week

    -> eca e.g. some school activity e.g. chess or running

    -> football e.g. go to training, play a match

    -> fitness e.g. either go to gym with friends or do 15 mins at home

    Do those 5 you get your fortnite time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 77 ✭✭scrips

    I'm amazed more parents aren't talking about this, as it has such a huge impact on a teen's behaviour, self-worth, interests, interaction with family, etc.

    I would practice a mix of both of your above approaches. At fourteen my child didn't show a whole lot of interest (if any) in her phone, so I didn't impose limits. At fifteen it's a different story. She mainly uses it for whatsapp, free screen games and Duolingo. I'm grateful she's not on tiktok or snapchat. We are having more frequent flashpoints over the phone now as I feel she is neglecting other things (mainly chores!) in favour of the phone, but she's smart enough not to push it too far. She is balancing it with homework, reading & outside interests, but I do see it having a negative impact on her behaviour in that the phone is always prioritised over chores and helping others, in particular.

    Tim Robbins - I think your time limits sound very reasonable. Some of that time spent on the phone may even be socially beneficial to your teen. The challenges seems like a good strategy to ensure all his other activities do not go by the wayside - if it works as an incentive.

    Realistically we are living in a world which operates through screens to a huge degree and ultimately we all have to adapt to that, but if only we could postpone that reality for our children until they are a bit older…