You may have heard some of the alarming news related to research that links screen time and media usage with anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. This analysis was done as a part of a larger, longitudinal study that will follow more than 11,000 children as they grow up around screens – an unparalleled study, given the advances in technology. Not to mention that the children who spent more than two hours per day on screens had lower scores on language and problem solving tasks, this is frightening news.
Yet screens are inevitable, and no child living in our modern day society can be truly “screen free.” Screens are found in doctors offices and restaurants, and schools are increasingly turning to technology, tablets, and multimedia learning opportunities. Screen time is a common incentive for parents to use, a commodity that is more immediately rewarding than an allowance system, and an easy “take away” when a child needs to be grounded, or reminded of the boundaries within the family. Parents are also aware of the need to teach children time management, self-control, and awareness of the technology in our lives – it would be a disservice to truly shelter a child from all screens, only to turn them over to a highly digital and technological society in adulthood.
They key comes in striking a balance, and increasingly experts, researchers, and philosophers are turning to new methods, and trying to understand how to parent in this era of technology and screens. One such expert, Jordan Shapiro of Temple University, wrote a book, The New Childhood, in which he discusses using technology as a communication point with children, and an effort to connect and engage parents and children. Shapiro broke down some of the fear and anxiety that comes with screen time and the hard and fast rules that exist around time spent on devices, and pointed to the underlying truth – technology is out there, and its tempting. Lets try to connect and show curiosity, rather than forbidding it outright – and thus making it more tempting.
This is echoed by author Ana Homayoun, who uses her book Social Media Wellness, to illustrate the difference between intentional media and technology consumption, and mindless technology usage. More and more parents are using the incentive of media and screen time to help jump start productivity, such as offering unlimited screen time once all homework and chores have been completed. The idea of having no time restrictions will likely speed the process up more than nagging, reminders, or threats.
Teenagers and tweens are quickly lapping their parents in technological savvy, and nothing erodes trust faster than when a teen is busted for technology or social media use that hasn’t been permitted or even discussed within the household. Resources, such as the Screenagers movie, are in place to help empower parents to have conversations and to set healthy boundaries around an adolescent’s use of media. Much of the fear of technology comes from a place of not understanding, or feeling that a teenager has too much control. By informing parents, and providing resources for parents and children, healthy conversations around balanced use of screens can take place.
For more information on parenting, screen time use, or setting limits, contact us. We are here to help!