Times have changed since we were kids. Screens are everywhere. Teens not only have access to televisions; many of them have their own. But that’s old news. Given Hulu, Netflix, and online reruns, computers are the new, just-for-me TV’s. They come in all sizes so we can take them everywhere we go. We have desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, gaming systems, and all the devices I’m too old to be hip to. We don’t just watch TV on them. We game. We shop. We “socialize.” Students are not only required to write papers on a computer, but many need online access to complete homework assignments. Some students are even given textbooks on tablets. Video screens are so integrated into our daily lives, it seems there is no getting away from them. Since the dawn of the internet, those who market to individuals using screens of all types have been studying how to keep us watching, playing, or subscribing. They’ve gotten very good at it, and today’s teens have never known a world without it. Machines are built to cater to us, and studies show our brains are responding much like they do to other addictive stimuli. The more we get, the more we want. More screen time means more food, less exercise, and less time for family, friends, and practicing real life skills. Kids and teenagers hooked on screens can be irritable, defiant, and sometimes aggressive when a parent tries to limit their access. Excessive screen time has been linked to a whole host of negative outcomes—including conduct problems, social issues, and decreased school performance, just to name a few. Since kids and teens are just learning how to draw those boundaries, it’s our job as caregivers to set limits for them. Fortunately, research has also taught us a few things about managing screen time with kids.
Your children may need less screen time if:
- They plan, think, and talk about gaming when doing other activities.
- They often game to escape real life problems, anxiety, or depressed moods.
- They lie to others to hide their screen use.
- They become irritable when attempting to cut down on screen time.
Setting appropriate limits:
- Only allow a maximum of 1-2 hours a day of screen time (all screens).
- No screens in bedrooms, at meals, or bedtime.
- Keep screens where you can monitor time and content.
- Watch media with your kids or at least monitor what they watch.
- Monitor internet history (on all screens), texting, and social media usage.
- Know who your kids are talking to online.
- Friend them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and MySpace – make it a requirement for them to friend you if they want to use those sites.
- Ensure their access is as limited as the technology allows (sometimes this means getting hi-tech helpers involved to lock it down for you).
- If your children are irresponsible with technology, take it away.
How to make the transition to less screen time easier:
- Model appropriate use of screens.
- Engage with your children more and get them moving outside with you.
- Get them involved with peers and family. Those who need the most practice socializing are the most likely to avoid it with screen time and other things, which only prevents them from learning those real world skills.
Though screens often give parents a needed break, every time we say “yes” to more screen time, we say “no” to healthier alternatives. Don’t be afraid to let your child be bored. The skills they learn and practice in response to boredom will surprise you (making friends, playing sports, developing projects, being creative, reflecting on themselves and the world around them, and so much more.)
Do your kids spend too much time watching TV, playing video games, surfing online, or piddling on their phones? Does misbehavior tend to correlate with separating them from their beloved “screens?” Could you use some more ideas about how to successfully disengage from these activities and reconnect your children with family and friends? If you’re struggling with how much time your tweens and teens spend in front of a screen, come join our Tweens, Teens & Screens Parenting Workshop. Learn how to tell if your child is addicted to gaming, what types of influences screens have on your child’s behavior, reasonable time limits, building reward systems, and more! Workshop held Wednesday, October 22nd.
Learn more about our Tweens, Teens & Screens Parenting Workshop.
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