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Should We Expect Kids to Switch Off their Device as Soon as We Get Home?

Updated: Feb 26

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 youtube or gaming for a couple of hours (if not more).

Your first instinct when you get home might be to stride in and switch everything off so they can help with dinner or clean up a mess left on the table, 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? Is that more pleasant than the alternative? Do a few minutes in which you get distracted with your own tasks turn into an hour?

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 gritting teeth, 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.

Avoid all long chats in the moment. You will invite WW3 if your teen is like many and suffers from low frustration tolerance. Instead set up a clear consequence for not following your reasonable family request.

“In this house we all have to help. If you don't help now, then I will need to revoke your privileges and take your devices until you complete a chore-set".

Have a list of small chores for the family ready to go for chore-sets (eg. clean two shelves of the pantry or fridge, clean some windows in a family area, tidy up a quarter of the store-room or garage. Try and keep chores to those that will take between 15 and 20 minutes long. This means they are manageable and as soon as the allocated chore is completed their privileges are back (including access to their phone/laptop/tablet/watch/tv/gaming device .. errrgh just listing them helps you realise just how many there are).

Be aware of your own technology habits. If you walk around the house staring at a tablet, you can't expect your children to act differently. Make 2024 the year you pull your device habits together.

You and your family can discuss what fair and healthy boundaries will work for you and put these in place.

If you are feeling lost when it comes to setting healthy screen time boundaries with your kids and need some support, register for Dr Danielle Einstein and Dr Locke's new parenting book on

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. Danielle is the creator of The Dip - a practical guide to taking control of screen addiction and reconnecting your family.



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