You’ve said “yes” to your child getting an app or game and now you regret it. Or maybe technology just started to ooze into every minute of the day and you need to reset your family’s usage. How do you change the rules on screen time?

Here are the four steps to begin this conversation on changing the rules on technology.

1. Find a time when everyone is calm and has time to talk

Don’t try to approach this conversation when you’re in the middle of an argument about screen time. Wait until you’ve got time–set aside 20 minutes for this first conversation.

Be respectful and ask your child when they have time over a weekend. Sometimes that means planning ahead and putting it on the calendar. Other times the best way to make sure it happens is to talk while driving.

2. Practice this script in advance

“Listen sweetie, I’ve been learning more about online safety and I’m realizing I haven’t set you up for success online. When I think about our family values and who I hope you grow up to be, I’m worried that the rules and safeguards we have in place aren’t helping you become the best version of you that you can be.

I’ve been learning about why limiting screen time is important for our brains and how we thing. I’ve been learning about internet filters and how they help screen out all the junk that nobody wants to see. I’ve been learning about how I can help you deal with difficult online situations that no child should have to go through alone. I want to set up some new guidelines to keep you safe and make sure your online experience is filled with uplifting, positive things.”

3. Pause. Seriously, Breathe and Pause.

Take a breath and pause. Your message is important. Don’t get distracted by their initial reaction. Ignore the eye rolling and huffing and puffing that may be happening. Remember, you’re the adult and your message is important.

This is a big deal. Change is HARD. Put yourself in their shoes–They’re worried you’re going to take their whole world away, anticipating all the ways you’ll clamp down on them and make their life miserable.

Now is the time to check in and make sure they’re hearing what you’re saying.

4. Check in

a. If they’re explosive:

“We’ll continue this conversation when you are able to talk calmly. This is important to really think through. Until then, I need to keep your phone/ the cord to your gaming system. Go ahead and let your friends know you’ll be offline for today.”

Yes, it’s yours to collect. You can do this. But do it respectfully, realizing they probably have several conversations going right now or plans to connect for gaming or socializing soon.

Watch their reaction. The bigger your child’s reaction about taking their device, the more they need your help.

b. If they’re able to continue:

“I bet this feels scary, to think about changing how you’ve been using technology. I want you to know that it’s my goal to keep all the good stuff in your gaming/social media life, your friends, your videos, your games, your social time and we can work on this together. Can you spend a few minutes talking to me about what you love about gaming? Can you spend a few minutes talking about what you love on your phone?”

Use this tool to talk through the apps they’re using and how it makes them feel. Download my Connect Sheet for a list of questions and a scoreboard for what’s working and what’s not. This is part of the Five Circles of Online Safety that every family needs.

Here’s why the script I teach works

It’s all about the delivery. You’ve got to deliver this message with love and belief in what you say. No judgment about the apps or games they’re using–now is not the time. This is about you admitting you didn’t know what you didn’t know. You’re allowed to change the rules to protect your kids. The digiscape (digital landscape) is changing rapidly and you need to adjust and react to it.

As Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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Attribution Clinton Library [Public domain]

Why change the rules on screen time

It’s what good parenting is all about. You weren’t born knowing how to parent for every situation. Day to day, you’re doing the best you can and when you know better, you’ll adjust and do better. I’m here to encourage you to have this conversation today. You CAN change the rules on screen time and your kids will be better off mentally, emotionally and physically when they have limits and boundaries.

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