The Privilege of Screentime

As a parent or educator that works with children, we often feel this pressure of making sure that children have digital texts and tools for them to use for whatever purpose. Sometimes we feel our own rush and desire to buy the “latest and greatest” that we also feel the need to give this to children.

Remind your child that screentime is a privilege, not a right. Children are given devices earlier and earlier in current times. There is a lot of pressure to stay connected with children, while giving youth the tools we believe they need in the current society. Our children also experience, and share the pressure they feel as many of their friends get newer and newer equipment.

As a parent, you can choose to grant all of these requests, or you can help your child develop the skills necessary to be a mindful, digital citizen. This may include lending or loaning them screens to use. You can set the terms and priorities for healthy use of screens.

As a teacher, we often believe that screens need to be included to keep up with other classes, or keep our students interested and involved. Technology, and the use of screens does not make students pay attention in class. Interactive, student interest-driven inquiry lessons often will entice students to pay attention. Finally, good teaching is good teaching…whether or not you add screens.

Treat screentime as a privilege, not a right

To begin to think about screentime as a right, it is often helpful to relate it to food selection and consumption. You wouldn’t feed kids chocolate and sweets for every meal as they’re not the healthiest foods around. You may also not exclude them from access to the pantry and selecting what they would like to eat. If you approach screentime in the same manner as helping them develop a healthy diet, you’ll help create health behaviors.

You may also re-frame screentime as a privilege that is earned for good behavior. Instead of feeling deprived of screentime, children will often use creativity, ingenuity, and argumentative skills to earn this resource. This delayed gratification helps teach them valuable life lessons like self-regulation, persistence, and flexibility.

By making screentime something to be earned or valued rather than something that is expected, we can use screentime as a motivational tool to build healthy behaviors and habits.