Screen Time Rules

How Can Unspoken Screen Rules Help in the New Year?

Delaney Ruston, MD
January 3, 2023
Piggy bank with glasses next to an iphone

As the New Year begins, it's natural to think about resolutions and ways to improve our habits and routines, including tech time expectations. But instead of focusing on revamping screen time rules, I've been thinking about the moments over the past year when my family and I turned off, or turned over, our devices and were more present with each other.  

In particular, I’ve been thinking about what I call “unspoken screen rules”--all the times we log off, consciously and unconsciously. 

One of my resolutions was to talk with my family about all this over the weekend. My hope was that it would reinforce these good habits and that my family would feel appreciated. 

I loved knowing that such a conversation would add positivity to our unspoken "family emotional piggy bank," which is great to have in the bank when tech troubles inevitably arise. 

So I did just that. I shared some examples of times when I noticed that people in the family did not have their phones out or “logged off” in other ways. It was really fun to talk about all this. 

I wanted to share some examples of unspoken screen rules so that if you want to do this same exercise with your family, or your students if you are an educator, you have some ideas:

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  • “I love how we don’t run to grab a phone when we are at dinner when we have a question. No matter how much we want to Google the answer, we don’t.” 
  • For a teacher to use: "I really appreciate how you've made an effort to put your devices away when class starts. It used to be something I had to remind you about, but now it seems to be a habit. Thank you for being considerate and showing self-control in this way."
  • “On family walks, you always participate in the conversation when we ran into folks. I love that.” 

It feels great that I already checked off one resolution by having that conversation! I’m all for a resolution that can be completed in a night. I got this idea from Jason Gay’s recent lighthearted article in the Wall Street Journal titled More New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep.

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A couple of my favorites in the article were:

  • “I am going to play considerably less polo. I currently play zero polo, and have never played polo in my entire life, so I figure this resolution will be easy to hit.”
  • “I’m going to get a phone charger and hide it from everyone in my family. If someone says, “Hey, do we have any chargers around her for the iPad?” I’m just going to sit on the couch and keep my mouth shut.” 

Questions to use to get the conversation started:

  1. What examples can we think of for unspoken screen rules or etiquette? 
  2. What times can we think of when we naturally know to stop being on a device?
  3. What non-screen-time activities did we do together or alone this holiday break?
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Screen Time Rules

How Can Unspoken Screen Rules Help in the New Year?

Delaney Ruston, MD
January 3, 2023
Piggy bank with glasses next to an iphone

As the New Year begins, it's natural to think about resolutions and ways to improve our habits and routines, including tech time expectations. But instead of focusing on revamping screen time rules, I've been thinking about the moments over the past year when my family and I turned off, or turned over, our devices and were more present with each other.  

In particular, I’ve been thinking about what I call “unspoken screen rules”--all the times we log off, consciously and unconsciously. 

One of my resolutions was to talk with my family about all this over the weekend. My hope was that it would reinforce these good habits and that my family would feel appreciated. 

I loved knowing that such a conversation would add positivity to our unspoken "family emotional piggy bank," which is great to have in the bank when tech troubles inevitably arise. 

So I did just that. I shared some examples of times when I noticed that people in the family did not have their phones out or “logged off” in other ways. It was really fun to talk about all this. 

I wanted to share some examples of unspoken screen rules so that if you want to do this same exercise with your family, or your students if you are an educator, you have some ideas:

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