How to lay down the screen-time law for relatives, playdates and babysitters

Posted in Entertainment and Technology.

One of the hardest things about setting screen-time boundaries has got to be getting your kids to stick to them when they are being looked after by other people.

It doesn’t really matter if they’re relatives, friends, or babysitters – when you’ve created rules for your kids about screens, they’re more than likely to try and wrangle out of them when you’re not around.

It can also be hard when your child is on a playdate with a family who has different rules and limits.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re completely allowed to set your boundaries. They are your kids and there are reasons for choosing the rules that you have chosen.

The tricky part can be understanding the right language to use when you are trying to articulate these rules in a social setting, or just somewhere new.

We asked around our community of mums at Babyology for some ideas.

State your boundaries with respect 

If you feel nervous about having the conversation, you could try sending a text or short email to the friend/relative your child is staying with to communicate your boundaries. 

For example, when Katie, a mum-of-three, was faced this dilemma recently she decided to send her parents an email along these lines:

“Hi Mum and Dad, Sophie can’t wait to spend time with you these holidays. We have been trying to limit her screen time to about 40 minutes each day. It’d be great if you could also stick to this time limit while she’s staying with you.”

Similarly, if your child is on a playdate with another child who has a PlayStation or similar device that you’d rather he didn’t use, you could say something like: “Thanks so much for having Andy over for a play today, I know your son has a PlayStation but we’re not comfortable with Andy playing on those yet. Are you okay to give him something else to play with if it comes up?”

“The host’s rules are the rules my kids stick to”

Suze, a mum-of-two, takes a different approach. “Their host’s house rules are the rules my kids have to stick to. If they allow screens etc, then I can’t really police my own rules there. I sort of let it go when they are at others’ places. In saying that, it is VERY RARE for me to even let them take their devices to friends’ homes. My daughter’s already lost an iPod AND a phone, never to be seen again.”

When you’ve got a babysitter or nanny on hand to help, the rules can be much more black and white.

Mum-of-two George says she writes the house rules on a whiteboard on the family fridge.

“I always brief the babysitter first, of course. But if they are up on the fridge it helps them too in times where they might have to lay down the law a bit more.”

Don’t aim for perfect

As with anything, aiming for 100 percent perfection is not the goal here. We need to accept that sometimes, even with best intentions, your child may be in a situation where the screen time rules are bent more than usual.

When you get the chance, it helps to have a brief chat with everyone involved about why you’d prefer that didn’t happen in the future. Hopefully, that will help you all move forward with a plan for the future.


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