The modern parent is often juggling work life with family life and never more so than at the end of the day when getting kids off screens and ready for bed is highly charged which leads to family conflict.
It’s tough responding reasonably to, ‘But I just need to finish this.. [game, movie, YouTube video, or check social media feeds]’ or ‘ I have to respond to **’s text, post, email, notification or request now. They’re expecting it.’
The added pressure is the knowledge most parents have about what the experts are recommending about how many hours sleep their children need each night to be able to concentrate, learn and play the next day:
- Teens 8-10 hours
- 9-11 years 9-11 hours
- 5-8 years 10-11 hours
Another influence, again known by many parents, is the negative impact of screens at night. According to sleep expert Canapari ‘Both the proximity to the face and the emission of blue-white light from a tablet or smartphone make these devices more likely to suppress melatonin, resulting in insomnia and later sleep onset.’
A Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne study reported in 2017 that:
- 62% of parents reported having experienced family conflict in relation to the use of screen-based devices in the past month.
- 17% reported conflict, tension or disagreement between family members about screen use at least three to four days per week.
- 32% of children were reported by parents to display oppositional behaviour such as arguing back in relation to screen-based device use.
- 44% of parents allow their children to use screens within half an hour of going to bed.
These statistics may resonate with your family’s experience.
So how can conflict in the home be reduced and evenings calmer? By developing a media agreement with all the family involved in its development.
What is a Family Media Agreement?
A family media agreement is a set of formal or informal guidelines that a family agrees on to guide their behaviour when it comes to device and Internet use. When these guidelines are clear, they can help your child learn what the limits are and understand your expectations of them. They will also help you to develop consistency and fairness in the way you treat your child’s use — and misuse — of digital media.
When developing a family media agreement parents should seek their children’s input on what they think should be included. They should also openly discuss which rules will be enforced and what the consequences will be if they break those rules.
Proactive decisions about consequences will ensure that they’re proportionate to the level of misbehaviour and make them easier to enforce, while reactive punishments are more likely to be disproportionate, as they’re made in anger or fear.
One particular resource is The Smart Talk which aims to get “parents and kids together for a conversation about being responsible with new technologies.”