Updated: Sep 2, 2022
The Good News: Parents Have the Weapons!
Most parents are fighting some forms of technology and media in their homes. Although there are dangers that lurk in our homes through screens, the good news is that parents do have the weapons to tame this beast!
Tip #1 - Chop Off Time on Screens
Studies have found that "in general, the more time adolescents spent on each screen media activity, the more negative their mental health and well-being,”[i] Parents can get out their parenting swords and chop some of that time off their screen usage!
Do you know how much time is your child on their screens? There are built-in phone usage trackers or apps such as QualityTime or Space that track time spent. Most even categorize it by app or activity. Set up a regular time to check in with your child, and ask them what they think about their activity. Instead of shaming or blaming, explain your concerns and ask them to come up with their own solution to overuse.
Tip #2 - Have a War Council . . or . . Family Council
Parents should hold a council with their children to determine rules and usage times that will be monitored in their homes. The American Academy of Pediatrics even gives an effective weapon! Their Family Media Plan template is ready for use with comprehensive and age-appropriate strategies. This media plan is easy to customize for each child and addresses all the dangers a family should consider. Be on watch as screen time can multiply rapidly if unmonitored, so regularly meeting and following up will be necessary. Set a time weekly to make that plan with your family and review usage.
Tip #3 - Enlist Help for Deadly Addictions
What if a teen or a child is in the clutches of addiction to their smart devices? Due to the adolescent’s impulsivity, they are vulnerable to smartphone addiction, more so than adults.[ii] Some overuse is pernicious. Types of addictions for teens that rear their ugly head are sexting/cybersex addiction, pornography addiction, online gaming addiction, addictions to chat rooms, online surfing overuse, internet shopping or online gambling.
Some of these newly found addictions are not yet easy to diagnose, and psychologists are only beginning to define them and refine treatments. Treatments for these addictions include cognitive behavioral therapy, self-help treatment groups, group therapy, and family therapy. Parents may need to enlist the help of a good therapist to fight this fire-breathing kind if it is negatively affecting teens grades, relationships, jobs, and their health in significant ways.
Tip #4 - Tech Shields and Safe Smart Devices
New safety smart devices can connect kids and slash the heads of those beasts! Gabb Wireless, Pinwheel, and smart watches are kid-friendly, keep them connected, and curb internet access and addiction. These may be better options for your teen or tween.
There are also apps that filter your content, provide safer browsing, safer video streaming for families, and block dangerous images and pornography sites. "Accountability" apps such as Bark and Covenant Eyes provide a parent or sponsor to be alerted to content to help their families steer away from dangerous content and time spent on devices.
Tip #5 - The Ultimate Weapon: Family Fun
Dragon slayer parents know that the best tactic to combat this beast is real-world activities. One simple weapon is eating together as a family! Meals should be a no-screen-zone! Studies have shown that family meals together have been correlated with better family relationships, healthier food patterns, better grades, good communication skills, better emotional and mental health, less stress, and better weight management for children.
I feel like every house that I walk into, it's always the kids against the parents and it's a battle. And I think that if we can change that . . . so that it's our families versus the [online] world, then we have a hope of winning. -- Smith Alley [iii]
Family fun is the strategy and plan of attack! Family activities, time with parents, face-to-face social events, and talking in the car all buffer against overuse. Time together and simply having a blast can slash time overusing on smart devices.
Beware and Be Aware
Beware and be aware with your parent armor and weapons ready! These deadly dragon heads are the multiple ways of overuse and misuse can occur on screen devices. It is an ever-present danger that needs constant monitoring, courage, and vigilance. Parents have a hard time distancing their children from their phones because schoolwork, coordinating events, and social interactions are all tied to their devices, but parents who regularly monitor can protect and help their children manage their devices.
[i] Twenge, J. (2021). Not all screen time is created equal: associations with mental health vary by activity and gender. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 56, 207-217. doi:https://doi-org.byui.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s00127-020-01906-9
[ii] Hyun-sic, J., & Dai-Jin, K. (2018). The relationship between smartphone addiction predisposition and impulsivity among Korean smartphone users. Addiction Research & Theory, 26(1), 77-84. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/16066359.2017.1312356
[iii] Wilkenson, H. (Host). 2021, April 7. Straight from the Teen's Mouth // Smith Alley from Live Life Bigger Foundation (No. 2) [Audio podcast episode]. In Healthy Screen Habits. https://www.healthyscreenhabits.org/straight-from-the-teen-s-mouth-smith-alley-from-live-life-bigger-foundation