Most parents know about the negative effects of screen time, but justify giving their kids smartphones and tablets for a number of reasons:
"For safety," "Everyone else is doing it," "Kids need to be online for school work," "It's the only way I can get anything done, or "My child will fall behind in technology without a smartphone."
Parents of even younger children will use smartphones and tablets to entertain babies, toddlers and preschoolers to avoid tantrums. All of the above excuses have been debunked by Screen Time Coaches.
What's a Screen Time Coach?
Screen Time Coaches ween children, or stop them cold turkey from smartphone, computer, and video game addiction. It might seem extreme, but it's a red flag when children no longer want to play outside, lose interest in toys, or stop playing with other kids.
According to Lisa Howe, MSW Certified Peaceful Parenting Coach, "The average American child is watching so many hours of screen time daily that it starts to impact health leading to a lack of time outside, physical play, and poor eating habits."
Wendy Faucett, Certified Leadership Parenting Coach, cautions parents to keep kids away from screens as much as possible.
"There is now hard and reputable evidence that screen time actually changes the structure of developing brains. We see sociopathic displays from younger and younger kids. We see an absurd and telling increase in behavioral disorder diagnoses. We know of too many teachers who leave the profession because they simply can't compete with the bells and whistles and instant rewards of screen time. And, sadly, we see too many parents using screen time to pacify their children and prevent the dreaded proclamation of "I'm bored." So, kids don't know how to entertain themselves without a device in hand," says Faucette.
Well behaved children demonstrate addictive behavior when the device is taken away.
"There is a great deal of research which continues to show us that some children have a much more difficult time and become "obsessed" struggling when screen time has to end. Over my years as a Certified Peaceful Parenting Coach, I do have more and more parents coming to me lately for help to deal with how to address the meltdowns that arise from screen time challenges," says Lisa Howe.
My child does not have a smartphone. He has a children's tablet with parental controls, and no internet. Some of his classmates have phones, and social media accounts. He frequently asks for a own phone, I always say "No."
According to Wendy Snyder a Positive Parenting Teacher & Family Coach, "If mom and dad don't feel confident setting strong limits and sticking to them with consistency, kindness, compassion and firmness...things can get really dark, really fast. Parents who may not be well versed in effective positive parenting power struggle prevention and dissolving strategies may be quick to move to using fear and force which often will send kids into even a bigger "fight or flight" mentality."
It's a nuisance to say "No," but it's worth the fight.
Who can forget "The Tide Pod Challenge"or the "In My Feelings Challenge"when kids purposely danced in front of oncoming cars. You Tube downloads 400,000 videos per minute and doesn't have the same vetting process as TV or film. Stuff slips through the cracks even on You Tube Kids which I found out the hard way. If your child is watching You Tube alone, your child is vulnerable.
Camps now advise campers not to bring phones.
A friend told me about her tween daughter's recent experience at an overnight camp. The rooms weren't equipped with flat screens or phones, and the food was mediocre. It was camp, it offered fresh air, activities, and s'mores, but that didn't satisfy this group of kids whose behavior modeled The Kardashians. They brought smartphones to camp, and had take-out delivered to their cabins. Their heads were consumed by social media. Several camps now advise campers to leave their phones at home.
The Art of Saying No To Your Child
Wendy Faucett states, "Parents JUST SAY NO! Do not allow classroom tech to come home with your student. Put the desktop computer in a well trafficked area of the home and allow its use for word processing and research only. Do not provide your children with smartphones, laptops or tablets. If you absolutely must be able to reach each other in a moment's notice, provide a call and text only phone with no internet access. Do not allow your children to use social media until they are paying for their own devices and service. Keep video games out of your home. Keep your own cell phones and other devices put away while you are with your children. Keep television viewing to a minimum, and watch it together. Children will learn to value what their parents value. Teach them that people are what matter, relationships are what sustain us. "
If your child is already on the grid, and you are looking for a way to reduce their screen time Lisa Howe offered these solutions.
"I loved the book, "The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life" by Anya Kamenetz. She borrows Michael Pollan's formula suggesting "Watch Screens, Not Too Much, Mostly with Others". This is such a great starting point. Each family should consider how much screen time they feel is right for them. Many families do no screen time during the week and then limited time on the weekend. Some do a daily limit of 30 minutes.
Are Parents The Problem?
Parents can be just as addicted as their kids. Coaches recommend spending family time outdoors sans phones. Wendy Snyder says that parents in her monthly meet-up group The Bonfire frequently express concern about their children's screen time. "For every minute our kids are on devices, they are not in nature, which is leading to a big nature deficiency in lots of children, "says Snyder.
9 Parenting Hacks To Reduce Children's Screen Time:
-Remind kids that screen time is a reward not a given!
-Schedule plenty of activities and outdoor time.
-Enroll in classes, clubs and volunteer opportunities, have your child with their peers.
-Place your child in computer classes so they can use computers constructively.
-Let kids earn tech tokens for good behavior that they can cash in for up to an hour of screen time per day.
-Have kids listen to podcasts and audio books instead going online for entertainment.
-Explain the negative effects of too much screen time daily.
-Explain that internet danger is the equivalent of stranger danger.
-Demonstrate how to conduct internet searches for school by using safe, reputable sites.
Information On Screen Time Coaches:
Wendy Snyder Positive Parenting Teacher & Family Coach
Fresh Start Families
You can grab Wendy's free guide to parenting with firmness & kindness by clicking HERE.
Lisa Howe, MSW
Certified Peaceful Parenting Coach
Love & Leadership Parent Coaching
Related Article: When Should You Buy A Child A Smartphone?
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