The science behind the effects of screen time on developing minds is well known to most parents. But does adult screen time affect children, as well? While our brains may be fully developed, our screen time can still be detrimental. When parents are overly absorbed by their technology, they tune-out what’s going on around them.
How Our Screen Time Affects Our Kids
- It causes distracted parenting - The most obvious reason as to why the overuse of technology may be harmful is distracted parenting. When parents aren’t mentally present, they’re less likely to pick up on potentially harmful conditions, accidents waiting to happen, and warning signs.
- It results in low quality engagement - We actually spend more time with our kids than ever today. Modern parenting promotes involvement in school, extracurricular activities, and playdates. But with our attention being stretched all over the place, the quality of this engagement is low. We may be physically present, but our minds are elsewhere. When it comes to spending time with our kids, quality is better than quantity.
- It’s not conducive to language development - The development of language skills is heavily reliant on back and forth conversations between child and adult. These precious skill-building interactions are interrupted or half-heartedly engaged in when we split our attention with the phone.
- It can affect socio-emotional development - Kids will engage in behaviors to make pleas for their parents’ attention, such as whining, clinging, tantruming, and defiance. Lack of attention can also lead to low self-esteem, as your child feels that they are not a priority. Children crave their parents’ attention more than anything.
- It models poor technology habits - Your child will model your eating habits, reading habits, self-regulation habits, and so on. Technology habits are no exception.
How to Realistically Balance Technology Use at Home
The fact of the matter is, technology is unavoidable in the modern world. Not only is it useful, but it provides parents a source of connection in our increasingly isolated societies where our families are miles away and our schedules are packed to the brim. Consider the following tips to balance your technology use when around your kids.
- Don’t create the expectation that you’re available to all people at all times. Many of us unintentionally created the expectation that we’re reachable at all times. It’s never too late to reverse that. Simply let your friends and loved ones know that you’re trying to spend less time on your phone, so you may not be as quick to text back. Most people will understand and many are trying to do the same themselves. Once you’re free of this self-imposed obligation, you can feel more comfortable leaving your phone in the other room.
- Be clear when you do need a chunk of time to use your technology. When you do need, (or want,) to use your phone or computer for some time, let your kids know. Simply say something like, “Daddy has to do something on the computer for the next hour, I’ll talk to you when I’m all done.” Once that chunk of time is done, put the screen away and be present.
- Have screen time together. Setting a specific screen time limit for children is smart. Schedule a daily time for that and enjoy your technology of choice then, as well. As with the previous point, once that time is over, put your screens away and be present. Experts recommend only an hour of recreational screen time per day for children under five.