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Psychology Expert Says Kids Should Set Their Own Screen Time (He's Not Wrong!)
  • Technology offers ease and convenience, but it can also be a distraction, especially for kids. Apart from taming tantrums, parenting in the digital age now also includes screen-time limits, choosing quality content, and striking for a good balance between tech and real-life experiences. 

    But according to a psychology expert, parents are missing out on teaching their kids one vital skill to survive and succeed in a tech-driven world: time management. 

    “Becoming indistractable is the most important skill for the 21st century — and it’s one that many parents fail to teach their kids,” Nir Eyal, author of the book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, writes on CNBC. Parents also need to reinforce their kids’ belief in their own power to overcome distractions. “It’s their responsibility — as well as their right — to use their time wisely,” he adds. 

    One way to teach kids is to let them make their own decisions on what to do with their own time, even if it means playing on the tablet. Of course, they’re going to make mistakes from time to time, and that’s okay. “It’s okay to put their kids in charge because it’s only when they learn to practice monitoring their own behavior that they learn how to manage their own time and attention,” Eyal explains.

    But how can a child decide how much time is appropriate to spend on reading and playing games? Eyal tried it on his daughter, and these are his tips:


    Start when kids learn how to tell time. 

    Toddlers have no concept of time yet (why do you think they seem like they’re pestering you after you tell them to wait?). Preschoolers who have learned how to tell time will understand that spending more time at the park may mean less time to be with mom and dad at home.

    Teach kids about consumerism.

    Games and social media may be fun, but they profit from people’s time attention, Eyal stresses. Companies do want kids to while away the time using their product or service. It’s a crucial part of teaching media literacy and can help kids make better decisions about their time. 

    Guide your child in plotting and dividing his day.

    At first, kids wouldn’t have an idea yet about time management skills, so parents have to guide them. It’s all about asking the right questions (you can do this even with matters not concerning screen time): 

    • “How much screen time in a day do you think is good for you?”
    • “Does 45 minutes seem like the right amount for you?”
    • “How do you plan to make sure you don’t spend longer than 45 minutes for screen time?”
    • “What do you think is a fair consequence if you don’t follow your own rules?” or “If you don’t follow your own rules, we have to discuss new ones, okay?”

    The important thing is that the kids have a say about it, making it their rules and in charge of enforcing them. They’ll feel more involved and independent. “When parents impose limits without their kids’ input, they are setting them up to be resentful and incentivizing them to cheat the system,” he adds. 

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    As your child grows, you’d have to renegotiate his screen time (and many others!), and it may not be as easy. Keep in mind that discussing the role of technology in your home is part of parenting, so hear them our and be patient. 

    Letting kids, even as young as toddlers, choose and make their own decisions have their merits. Find out more about it here

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