Managing Child Screen Time After a Divorce

When you are approaching or going through a divorce or legal separation in New Mexico as a parent, there are always new challenges to address. One area that can be difficult to navigate at first is parenting across two households. To make this as effective and stable for your child as possible, you and your co-parent need to have uniform rules for the child to follow. This eliminates mixed messages and confusion for your child, and it can also help reduce any friction between you and your former spouse or partner over parenting matters.
Although there are many areas you will probably need to address with your co-parent when it comes to these rules, one issue you should definitely discuss is screen time. Children are exposed to more digital devices now than ever before, but too much use can be detrimental to them on multiple levels. Learn more about screen time and what it can mean for your child’s health and well-being.

Screen Time Types

Since electronic devices are used for a variety of purposes, the upsides and downsides of screen time may also vary, depending on the use. Generally speaking, there are four broad categories screen time falls into:
•       Passive consumption: Reading a book or watching a video on a device is considered passive consumption. Your child is engaged but not interacting or communicating.
•       Interactive consumption: Searching the web or playing a game is interactive consumption.
•       Communication: Social media, email and chat forums are communication.
•       Content creation: Coding, drawing, writing, creating music and other creative pursuits fall under content creation.
When you know what these general categories are, you can inventory your child’s screen time more effectively. This is because you can recognize the differences between those screen time uses and the distinct impact each type can have on your child.

Healthy Limits Matter

Having good limits on your child’s screen time will benefit him or her emotionally, mentally and physically. Children need regular physical activity for their health, for example, so if your child isn’t getting that, some screen time can be eliminated and replaced with physical activities instead.
When your children spend too much time on a device, it can prevent them from participating in other activities, which will impact their emotional well-being and happiness.
Last but certainly not least is the matter of sleep. Research has increasingly shown the impact that lights emitted from devices can have in the time span before bedtime, reducing the amount of quality sleep your child gets. This is important to keep in mind given the importance of sleep to overall health.

Planning Screen Time Limits

Your screen time limit plan should consider your entire household and be shared with your co-parent so everyone is on the same page across both homes. Children learn from those around them, so you also need to stick to the screen time limits you are setting.
The easiest rule may be the 5-2-1-0 rule, which calls for five servings of veggies and fruits per day, no more than two hours of screen time daily, one hour of physical activity each day, and no drinks with added sugar. If you are not concerned about the other areas, at least keep the “2” in mind, and use a timer if needed.
Unhealthy screen time habits can be tough to overcome, so you should offer alternatives to engage your kids in other activities. Extracurricular activities work, but even just assigning your child age-appropriate daily chores can help keep him or her away from a device. Family activities, such as walks, baking or board games, can also help your family bond and make it easier for kids to adjust to less screen time.