Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” has been written thousands – if not millions – of times. It’s a way to translate the macro-view to the micro-version. While originally spoken to impact our view of the world and our relationships with others, parents might do better applying this adage to their household: be the change you wish to see in your children.

Did you have to put down your smartphone in order to give your child a lecture about limiting their screen time? It sounds funny, but it’s not all that unrealistic.

A survey released by Common Sense Media found that while 78 percent of parents feel they’re good media role models for their children, they actually spend:

  • Nine hours and 22 minutes per day interacting with screen media.
  • More than 7.5 of those hours are spent on personal screen media (only 90 minutes were attributed to work).

James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, stated, “These findings are fascinating because parents are using media for entertainment just as much as their kids, yet they express concerns about their kids’ media use while also believing that they are good role models for their kids.”

The reality is that you can talk all you want at your kids, but humans are much better at mimicry than listening. We do what we see others do. If screen time is a concern in your family, realize your message starts at the top. Setting a good example – demonstrating a healthy relationship with phones, gadgets, and computers – goes a long way towards cultivating your child’s screen habits.

Use Top Parental Concerns to Shape Household Media Policies

When it came to parental concerns about their children’s use of screens and media:

  • 50 percent worry that it impacts a child’s physical activity levels.
  • 35 percent worry that it hurts children’s ability to focus.
  • 34 percent worry that it diminishes face-to-face communication.

These concerns are a great place to start as you create your own family policies around smartphone, game, and media use.

Get Outside Together

Start making exercise or physical activity a family affair. Use evenings and weekends to be active together without phones in the mix. Walk the dog, ride bikes at the local park, take a hike at least one or two weekends per month, or head to the roller or ice skating rink. In addition to modeling physical fitness strategies, you benefit from family bonding time.

Improve Focus

Experts do worry that Screen Time + Homework Time = Lack of Focus because children are continuously pulled out of their studies to answer the latest alert. Make homework time phone-free by storing phones in a central location. Then, make time to read together, play board games or cards, paint or draw, or put puzzles together – all activities requiring focus.

Practice Face-to-Face Time

When is the last time your child asked you something and you replied “uh, huh” because you were on your phone and didn’t really hear them? Being present is a two-way street. Your children know when you’re engaged and when you aren’t, and phones and/or screens are often the culprits. Instead, practice face-to-face time. Mealtimes are a perfect launch pad for this, so make a dinner table a phone-free zone. Family meetings are a good way to practice authentic listening and communication skills. Phone-free daily commutes are another way to practice silence or conversation.

Actions speak louder than words. Get authentic about the amount of time you’re in front of a screen, take control, and be the change you want to see.