One of my worst parenting days was when I was still sitting at my computer in pajamas and my husband walked through the front door. I thought that he had forgotten his laptop at home again and returned to get it so that he could go back to work and get started on his day.
When he didn’t seem to want to leave again, I realized that it was suppertime and that I had succumbed to spending the whole day in the black hole of the Internet and social media. Where had the time gone?
My kids had spent the day at home watching movies and eating sugar cereal for breakfast, snack, lunch and snack. I realized then that I needed to manage my online time better and instead of it managing me.
Tips on Managing your Screen Time
- Don’t check social networks in the morning – you can easily lose track of time catching up on what your friends had for breakfast.
- Do breastfeed and cuddle your infant in front of the computer. It’s a great way to get some snuggle time in as well as some adult company on the screen.
- Don’t ignore your toddler while you are online. Toddlers are fast, unable to comprehend safety and need constant supervision. Save your screen time for their naps and bedtimes.
- Do limit your email checking to twice a day: once in the morning (after breakfast and with coffee), and once at dinnertime. Demonstrating email boundaries is a healthy behavior to model for our kids. Most businesses expect a response within a day or two, so that gives you four times to check and catch items in those 48 hours.
- Don’t read email late at night. Upsetting news can keep your mind going at night before and while you are in bed, until you finally get up at 4 am with a perfectly crafted email response and then have to face the next day on three hours of sleep. Not worth it. Problem emails look much easier to respond to at 8 am with a full night’s sleep.
- Do get in the habit of cleaning (yes, another item in the house to clean!) out your email inbox at least twice a month. Even twice a year if you are not up to the task monthly.
- Don’t multitask during family time. If you are watching a movie with the kids, resist the temptation to check Facebook or email. Remember that only your laptop or a child can fit in your lap. Be truly present for them.
- Do set a timer to alert yourself to the end of an online session. Establish good habits for yourself and your children will follow.
- Don’t bring your laptop into the bedroom – Electronics should not be in a space dedicated to rest, relaxation and love.
- Do write everything online as if your mother will read it. It it’s not appropriate for her to read, think twice about posting. Consider yourself and your reputation – not to mention how your young child as a teenager would feel about it.
- Do get to know your privacy settings and use them.
- Don’t wade into hot topics on discussion groups. Often, after two days of intense flurry of emails, time is wasted arguing a point that eventually everyone will agree to disagree about. Meanwhile, it can be easy to snap at a needy child while in the middle of writing the stellar post.
- Do use “message rules” for emails. It will sort your inbox into critical items and not so critical folders. Helps prioritize before you even start the day.
Remember that real life touch, smiles, stories, laughter and hugs are better than a Facebook poke! Online communication supplements your life, but it isn’t your life. Be sure you virtually live, not live virtually.
Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” and the new DVD, “Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the Digital Generation for Health, Safety and Love”