When we see young people on their smartphones, we quickly get the thought: They stare too much at their displays and don’t really talk to each other anymore!
But maybe you’ve caught yourself pulling your phone out of your pocket way too often and letting it distract you.
If it’s already so difficult for us adults to keep track of our media time, how will our children manage? You can support your child with our tips while also keeping an eye on your own media time. It’s not about banning media. After all, they make many things in our everyday lives easier and fun to use. But too much screen time can also be harmful, for example because you don’t get enough exercise. Read our article “How much media time is good for my child?”.
Agree together on rules about media times. One good thing, for example, is that no smartphones are allowed at meals together. Of course, this does not only apply to the children! Since they always look to adult role models, you should set a good example. In some families, there is a shelf where each family member has a compartment for their own smartphone. It can be placed there during mealtime.
Together with your child, think about which media are used in which situations and why. Is this always useful or could you do something else that is better for you instead? Create a weekly schedule for you and your child to record media times. Does this seem like too much compared to other activities? Then you can consider alternatives together.
Depending on their age, you should agree with your child how much time a day or a week they can spend with media. In doing so, distinguish what media is used for. If your child understands the rules, it will be easier for him to keep such times.
If your child is younger, you can use marbles to help per agreed media time. For example, a ten-year-old boy has seven hours of media time per week and receives a marble for every 30 minutes. When the time is used up, a corresponding number of marbles are put away. An hourglass that ticks down during media time can also be an orientation.
There are apps that allow you to measure and regulate your screen time. For example, they are called StayFocused (for Android, free of charge) or AppBlock (free of charge for Android; from August 2021 also for iOS), Forest (free for Android, with ads and in-app purchases, for iOS €2.29 with in-app purchases) or Space (basic version free for Android and iOS). They record the use of the smartphone. You can use them to disable certain apps or “paralyze” the whole smartphone for a certain time. Apps like Forest and Space are more playful in that a tree grows or a galaxy builds up by not using the phone.
Many of these apps are funded by advertising, which can be annoying. Also, some apps require you to enter a lot of data to track smartphone behavior. It is not clear for all of them whether the data is also used for other purposes.
Many devices also allow you to control your own screen time or “digital well-being” via the“Settings”. You can see how long and what you spent your time on the smartphone. Timeouts can be scheduled or time limits can be set for certain apps. If you do not keep to this or if the time limit is reached, the corresponding note appears on the screen and the question whether you would like to add another 15 minutes, for example, or exceptionally select “No limit today”.
Even if these digital helpers can be easily deactivated, you can see how much time you spend with your smartphone and certain apps. This can help to rethink and change one’s own behavior with the smartphone. Perhaps you will turn it into a challenge together with your child!?