“[Limiting screen time is] kind of like eating vegetables—kids don’t usually like it, but they know you expect them to do it because it’s good for them and you love them.”
Meet Allie Casazza (pronounced kuh-SAW-zuh)
She’s married, has four kids, and lives in Southern California. She’s a podcaster and professional blogger, and she’s super passionate about helping burdened moms pursue simplicity so they’re less stressed and more able to enjoy their lives and their kids. Allie teaches a realistic, mom-friendly form of minimalism for both home and life through online courses and hosts The Purpose Show, a highly-ranked podcast focused on motherhood and living an abundant, intentional life.
How do you deal with screen time limits for kids in your home? What are some of the ground rules?
My husband Brian and I know technology is important and that our kids need to be familiar with it—but not when they’re babies and toddlers. Our kids like to play games like Minecraft, Roblox, Mario, etc, and we allow them to do those things. Our rule is no video games on school days, which is Monday through Thursday for us. This has worked really well! It keeps the kids from asking us constantly when they can play games next because there is a set boundary.
During the week, the kids focus on their school work, play with each other, build their sibling bond and create imaginative games with one another. There are no questions about technology coming out to play—that’s not how our home works. I think kids do well with routine and set times for things. They don’t like the unknown, and having things set up that way is just begging for lousy attitudes and arguments.
On “tech okay days,” it’s not a free for all. There are time limits, but those limits flex with our schedule and the kids’ attitudes. We’re a busy family with multiple sports commitments and church involvement, so there’s very rarely a weekend full of tech time. The kids normally play about an hour a day on the weekends, and there are certainly some weekends so full of sports and family fun that there’s no time leftover for tech.
How do you deal with screen time for yourself, especially when you have a business to run?
We allow things to “beep” and “ding” us away from our real lives far too often. I have a set place in my house where I keep my phone during my days at home and I have all notifications turned off except for calls and texts from my husband, my business manager, and one very close friend. Nothing else makes a sound or vibration.
I usually check my phone when I’m preparing a meal, so only a few times a day. I’m known in my circle for not responding to texts very well, and to me that means my priorities are in line. I have a family, a marriage, and my work—a mission I’m on to help mothers lighten their load—and I take all those things seriously. If I respond to every text I get and let my phone “ding” for every notification, I won’t be living on purpose… I’ll be heavily distracted.
For work, my business centers around technology. It’s part of my job to share what’s going on in my life on Instagram Stories, write emails, and respond to comments. That’s fine—I’m working—but I have to keep a tight grip on what’s work and what’s mindless scrolling. It’s just a mindset I have that keeps me in line.
“Once you break the social media addiction/habit, you stop caring about what everyone else is doing and you don’t even think to start scrolling.”
How do parental attitudes toward screen time affect children? Have you experienced this in your home?
I sure have. I think if Brian and I were glued to our phones all the time and then implemented strict rules on tech time with our kids, it would eventually turn into a battle with them. We practice what we preach. This is simply the way our family lives. It’s not a house rule, it’s a lifestyle of focusing on what matters—on what’s happening right in front of you. Technology is a side note, not the main event. The kids see us living that way so it makes sense for them to live that way too.
Do you think less screen time for kids can actually be a stress-reducer for parents instead of being a full-time screen-police regimen? How?
Absolutely! This is where the set days and times has helped us so much. If you just say “turn it off now. That’s enough”, but you have no basis for that statement, your kids will probably whine and not get it. Explain it to them. Lay out the new boundary beforehand for them and clearly show them where the fence is. Saying something like “we will play games on Saturdays and Sundays after sports and church events” leaves no room for asking, begging, and whining on the other days.
Kids just want you to be honest and up front with them. They don’t want to be miserable and have to play guessing games with your whims and moods, and trust me, you don’t either. Clear boundaries keep parents from having to be the “tech police” all the time. We have enough to do as it is!
How can parents convince their kids that taking away screens is a good thing instead of an unfair punishment?
Firstly, setting the boundaries I shared above and also explaining that you love them and want more time with them as well as more time for them to keep their brains healthy. It’s kind of like eating vegetables—kids don’t usually like it, but they know you expect them to do it because it’s good for them and you love them. We can choose to make anything seem negative or positive—it’s in your hands as the parent. Phrase it in a way that shows your child this is the way our home will work from now on, and it’s so that you can play more outdoors and stay healthy.
What advice do you have for parents who are dealing with dreaded “tech tantrums” and other growing pains from cutting back on screen time?
Remember that you are the parent, they are the child, and you are looking out for them and taking care of them. You’re not randomly punishing them. Plan something fun to do outside instead, invest in some creative play tools like Legos or puzzles or board games. Practice what you preach and stop checking your phone all the time. Start living a life focused on what matters and enjoy it with your kids! They will get over it and see this as the new normal with just a little bit of time.
What tip can parents walk away with that they can change in their homes today to start improving their kids’ digital health?
Think about your kids, their ages, your schedule, and what feels right for your family. Set your time boundaries accordingly and implement them today. Stay firm and consistent. Remember, your kids will catch on and this will be their new normal very soon!