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Should We Expect Kids to Switch Off the TV as Soon as We Get Home?

Many kids binge on TV and games during the school holidays, but how can we get them to 'switch off' when we get home so we can connect with each other?

You know the scenario: It's the school holidays and you've been out of the house all day, but your teenage kids have been at home binging on TV and gaming all afternoon.


Your first instinct when you get home might be to stride in and switch everything off so they can help with dinner (or in an ideal world to spend quality time together), however, this might be met with cries of “The movie isn’t finished yet!” followed by a heated argument.


How do you normally deal with these dilemmas? Do you allow the remainder of the movie or game to play out? Do a few minutes turn into an hour because you got distracted by another task? Pretty soon you end up feeling guilty and frustration levels rise.


Or maybe you say: “No, we are home now”, then walk straight over to the screen and switch it off. In those cases, an argument about ‘fairness’ may arise, especially if a teenager hasn’t eaten. This story usually ends in the teenager yelling and parents pulling their hair out, wondering whether it was worth approaching the screen time issue in the first place.


It doesn’t have to play out this way though. Here is a way you can approach this issue as a family in order to set some healthy boundaries.


Sit down with all your kids and discuss the issue together. You might say something along the lines of:


“I realise we have a problem when dad (or mum) and I have been out and you have been on a screen for hours. We haven’t set an afternoon limit but we do want you to get off and chat to us now that we are home. Why don’t we agree on what amount of time you have left in a movie that qualifies to keep the movie (or game) going as opposed to switching it off straight away?"


One family I know decided that a workable solution was if the kids were over halfway through a movie or show, and there were less than 10 minutes left, the teenager would be allowed to keep watching. In all other situations, the teenager would switch it off.


The benefit of using this approach is that you are including your kids in the conversation and they feel part of the decision making process.


You and your family can discuss what fair and healthy boundaries will work for you and put these in place. They don’t have to be set in stone. If you find the plan is too harsh, you can always discuss a change.


If you are feeling lost when it comes to setting healthy screen time boundaries with your kids and need some support, grab a copy of The Dip - a simple guide to tackling screen addiction and reconnecting your family, and join The Dip Community on Facebook.


Dr Danielle Einstein is a Clinical Psychologist, Researcher and Author specialising in understanding the impact of devices on mental health in teenagers. She is an Adjunct Fellow at Macquarie University and an Honorary Associate with the University of Sydney. Danielle is the creator of The Dip - a practical guide to taking control of screen addiction and reconnecting your family.

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