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Screen-Time Limits? Not for This Family

In my never-ending quest to find the answer to the question, “How do I set reasonable screen-time limits with my son?” I have interviewed yet another parent. This mom’s philosophy is definitely a change of pace from last week’s “no screens during the week” mom. But in one respect, at least, both parents are united: Their rules are created specifically to deal with the type of kid they have.

More: How One Tough Mother Sets Limits on Screen Times

This week’s subject: Adriana Velez, a writer in New York. Her son, Jasper, is 13.

How much tech does he own? He’s had an iPhone since he was 11 and he’s had his own laptop for a couple of years. He also built a desktop that’s not operational but it might be up and running soon. Also, he has a Wii U, but he hasn’t used it in years. He has all the apps, email, Instagram — it’s all gotten away from me. I can’t keep up with it.

General philosophy? I’m pretty lax, honestly. I was freelancing for a while and then I started working full-time and I went through a divorce, and when you’re going through all of these, there’s always a reason why it’s convenient to have your kid occupied. If you’re a busy 21st century mom it’s also one fewer battle to fight.

I went though the motions of trying to monitor and set limits, but it was too hard to be consistent about it.

Consistency is key, I hear. (I’m also wildly inconsistent.) Do you set any limits? Basically, I like him to get his homework done first and that hasn’t been a big deal — he’s a pretty good student. When it’s time for bed, he needs to turn it off and go to bed. But other than that, we haven’t set screen time or turn-it-off time. As long as it’s not getting in the way of anything else…

I also don’t like anyone, adults included, to check their phones when we’re sitting down to dinner.

How do you talk about his computer usage? We have conversations about how I feel like he’s on it more than I’d like him to be on it, and I feel like, “What else can he be doing?” and we talk about how productive staring-at-the-wall time can be. He’s admitted that he feels yucky when he’s on the computer too long, he feels gross, but he doesn’t have the self-discipline to get off. As the parent, I need to be faster about putting options in front of his face.

He could easily be on the computer all day and I’ll drag him out on an errand just to get him out of the house. The other day, I dragged him outside to look at the sunset, and his headache went away.

The thing that I find tough with limiting my kid is that it’s such a social activity. I don’t want him to be an outcast. Yes, exactly. He’s online with friends most of the time. He’s really into gaming, but it’s not just for the game itself, it’s also for the social activity.

Has he gotten into trouble (yet)? He did get in trouble over texting last year — he and a bunch of his school friends would message each other, and as a practical joke, they would spam each other and apparently some of the crap that was being sent was really disgusting. A couple of kids showed it to their parents and it turned into a huge thing.

Do you wish you had done anything differently? I don’t like second-guessing or ruminating on regrets. It would have been nice to be more disciplined and on top of things, and I was probably lax about it because I know him and what kind of kid he is, and I would never recommend that for other kids and other families. This is what works for us. You have to know your kid and what they are and you have to assume you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to get some aspect of this wrong.

More: Are Parents of Tweens and Teens Massive Hypocrites About Screen Time?

(I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not getting anything wrong.) Anything you’ll do going forward? I keep meaning to have the online porn conversation. That should probably happen really soon, right?

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