We’ve all seen the commercials – the mom who has to turn off the wifi just to enjoy a family meal without distraction, the dad whose kids sit on the couch playing games or looking at their phones until he shuts down their data usage, and the advertisement for unlimited data so that we can be connected all the time!
In recent years, cell phone use has increased dramatically for teens. In fact, a May 2018 study by Pew Research Group shows that 95% of teens say they now have access to smartphones and 45% say they are online almost constantly. Wow! When we think about screen time, we should consider not only what limits to make, but why we should make those limits. What are our kids missing out on by so much screen time? What negative things might they be experiencing? And finally, how can we establish a culture of disconnected connections?
Face to face interactions with peers and family, physical exercise, and homework all suffer when the distraction of screen time is present. Without face to face interactions, our teens are ill prepared to deal with basic social interactions later in life. And we all know how important physical activity is for both our physical and mental well being.
While excessive screen time causes teens to miss out on many positive interactions, it also exposes them to unhealthy habits as well. Cyberbullying has rapidly grown in recent years and its power and effect cannot be underestimated. In addition, screens can become a means of avoiding sadness or anxiety which can lead to mood disorders or more severe mental health issues.
So what can be done? Setting limits on devices is a good place to start. In addition, monitoring the apps your teen uses is crucial. Lastly, we lead by example in modeling self-discipline with screen time and prioritizing our teens! Let’s encourage connecting with one another by disconnecting from our screens more often. Lest we think teens are the only ones that need these reminders, let us remember this quote from Swiss doctor Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.”
For more tips about keeping our children safe while online, stop in our West Chester office for a free resource put out by OnGuard Online: “Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online”.