September 21, 2017

Do you worry about the addictive nature of entertainment screens? Are you wondering what are the best ways for setting limits with your children? 

According to a study by Communicus, the main users of tablets are kids between 6 and 9 years old (83%) and youngsters up to 12 years old old (80%). However, children from 2 to 5 years old (71%) and those over 13 years over (65%) have the highest rate of use of tablets.

Are these figures alarming? Thanks to smartphones and tablets, our children play games, listen to music, watch and create videos, find information on the Internet, chat, spend hours on social networks, take pictures, do homework, learn languages, mathematics, etc. It’s therefore normal for kids to like these devices. And it is normal for parents to pay close attention to their usage.

Screen limit education. Where do we start?

Children’s beliefs are based on their concrete experiences. What they see, hear, touch and feel determines how they think things are. For children to learn to use the screens responsibly, we must set boundaries and accompany them to make this a learning process. It is easier when we start “at an early age because children are very receptive, they want to play with their parents, they accept what parents say, their advice and their recommendations” says Guillermo Canovas, director of Internet Safety for minors in Spain.

Do you know the benefits of settings limits with your children?

No one likes to be controlled, and control often leads to frustration. However, setting limits is essential because:

  1. Boundaries provide security; a clear, firm message (where, how, when and for how long), expressing at the same time what the child can and cannot do provides security, for example: “Give me your hand to cross the street” or “No screens after 8pm”.
  2. Limits help children to take responsibility for the consequences of their behaviour: “If you cross the street without looking you can get hit by a car”.
  3. When the limits and the consequences are clearly defined, children learn to make decisions and to accept when said no. “Actions, rather than words, define your rules for young children” so if you stated the consequences, stay coherent.
  4. The boundaries shape the desire and facilitate an affective coexistence based on mutual trust. Children should understand that we cannot always have what we want.
  5. To limit is not to ban: “(…) if technology is exhaustively forbidden, children will feel the lure of forbidden and will tend to use it in secret, just as the addict craves for drugs or alcohol”. Just as there is healthy food and junk food, there are healthy and toxic relationships with technology” explains Richard Graham, psychiatrist at the Capio Nightingale Hospital.

Do you want to raise a tyrant?

Of course, you don’t. So let’s review some fundamental aspects to avoid this to happen.


As parents it is sometimes hard to say no, but by being too permissive and giving children all they ask for, we are not doing them any favor as they can become tyrants.

If your child insists and uses threats or throws a tantrum to get their own way, take a deep breath, wait patiently, make eye contact and listen to your kid. Use your body to connect with respect, stopping the irrational behaviour. Also, take into account the following:

  1. Psychologists recommend staying calm and firm in order to make clear to children that the settlement of rules and schedules is for their own good. It is necessary that children learn that tantrums are not the way to get all they want.
  2. Give limited choices: restrict the options to 2 or 3 at most and let them decide how to follow orders. For example: “it’s dinner time, do you turn off the iPad or do I”?
  3. Leverage external resources that help you set the limit, such as a clock or an app like Playtime Kid Crono.
  4. The human brain is blocked on negative orders. Therefore it is better to accentuate the positive message telling the child what to do, for example: “Take off your fingers out of your mouth” instead of “do not eat your nails” or “Please speak lower” rather than “Do not shout”.
  5. Minimize daily conflicts with your child: this can be achieved by stating the rule impersonally. For example: “look at the clock, it is 9pm, it’s time to go to bed”; or “The pop-ups showed up, so the game time ended, should you stop playing and turn off the iPad?
  6. Use a respectful and normal tone of voice and without negative adjectives: instead of “you are stupid” you can say: “please take care of what you are doing”.
  7. If you give a short reason, the kids will accept the limits faster: tell them why you are asking them to do something. It is not necessary that the kids agree but they need to know there are clear grounds for your decision. “Actions speak louder than words” so make your words and actions match.

And remember that “a common principle of human behaviour is that we like having reasons to do things”, states Robert Cialdini, in his study “Influence, the psychology of persuasion”.

How can you set limits with your children?

With love, respect, coherence, emotional intelligence and firmness. We know our children have three times as much energy as we have, and that they quickly adopt a “limit testing behaviour”. This is why parents should be patient and use external resources, such as Kid Crono, that will help you saying: Game is over.

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