4 Tips to Managing Device & Screen Times for Kids

One of the more prominent issues we face in this time is the constant exposure of our children to the unknown and often time dangerous worlds hidden within the internet.

The use of electronic devices as it pertains to child development continues to be a questionable debate, providing convincing arguments in the name of safety and technological advancement. However, as parents, we yearn for moments of serenity and silence when small but important tasks can be completed without interruption.

It is in these moments that the easy accessibility that devices can provide becomes so appealing.  

As temporarily occupying the screen time may be for our children, the need for these devices can often grow beyond our acute intent both from the child’s and parent’s perspective. The gradual dependence on handheld devices, and the social media outlets that are provided, have begun to interrupt established patterns of personal, social and familial growth and development in our youth today. In order to fully understand the impact that these social outlets have had, it is best to think about a time in which these outlets did not exist; our childhood.

When we were younger, we found stimulation elsewhere, whether it is in sports, physical activity, art, reading or interactive play. We learned appropriate boundaries by interacting with our siblings, peers, family members and adult influences.  

From these relationships, methods of communication were establish, language was developed, and social ques and concepts like personal boundaries and sharing were tested and understood.  

Beyond the genesis of my own social development, one of the more striking differences I see with the development of personal devices and social media is the dissipation of family time.

When I was young, school was not only a time to learn, but it was also a time to socialize with friends. We often looked forward to these interactions during summer breaks and, at times, appreciated the relief from socialization that the end of the school day would bring.  

Upon returning home, it was time to complete homework and spend time with the family. Socializing with peers had ended, creating an environment relieved of social pressure and replaced with familiarity and household and academic responsibilities.  

Nowadays, once school concludes, the social pressures remain.  

Through social media applications like snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, the obligation has shifted to maintain relevance in these cyber-based worlds.

From maintaining Snapchat streaks to conducting group chats, the pressure is significant to remain relevant within your selected peer group.  

Furthermore, these cyber-based interactions have devalued the importance of face-to-face social interactions.  

Social boundaries, ques, and expectations have become diluted and neglected, causing discord and misunderstanding when basic social interactions occur.

As parents, how do we maintain the balance of appreciating technological advancement while maintain positive social growth?

One aspect I have found to be helpful is though the maintenance of boundaries.  

This sounds easy enough, but when you are facing the wants of an adolescent, this task can feel daunting.  

Here are a few tips to help:

  • With any luxury, moderation is important.
    If you anticipate the need provide your child with an electronic device, and social media accounts are requested, create a social media agreement. It is imperative to discuss the expectations, limits, and possible consequences ahead of time to avoid future arguments. Parents need to be as specific as possible to avoid possible term-parsing later. Once the social media agreement is defined, both parents and the child can sign it. This will act as a referral when the rules and consequences are called into questions.
  • Create an after school schedule to include a limited amount of time on electronic devices.
    This time is to occur only after academic and household responsibilities have been met.  Again, it is important to specifically define the academic and household expectations that will earn them the privilege of using an electronic device.  
  • Additionally, the development of household device monitoring systems is now a reality.
    Companies like Disney have created systems to monitor and control each handheld device and account for usage and access. Circle with Disney is a way in which you can do this.  
  • Finally, before an electronic device is even considered, it is important to discuss with your children about the dangers associated with internet usage and social media sharing.
    The risk for exposure to dangerous materials and individuals can dramatically increase, but it is also important to know what they are responsible for as well.

If you have further questions about electronic devices and social media awareness, please contact us at the Duffy Counseling Center.  

Be safe!

Have questions or concerns about kids’ technology usage? Need support?

Please contact our counseling team to get help and support with managing kids’ tech usage or dependence.

Photo credit: Mayra Ruiz-McPherson via ruizmcpherson