In last week’s “Well” column, New York Times health columnist Jane Brody looked at the negative impact of screen-time on America’s device-addicted youth. Kids are spending between one-third and one-half of their days planted before phones, tablets and television, to the detriment of their social and intellectual development. For kids to grow into socially functioning adults, they need to interact more IRL.
In this week’s second installment of her anti-screen manifesto, Brody discusses how parents can protect their kids from their insatiable digital diets. Here’s an overview of her advice:
- Screen time is a privilege, not a right.
It’s easy to get hooked on devices. Parents must swoop in and cut their kids off. Brody cites Harvard public health experts who say that young children shouldn’t have their own phones or televisions in their bedrooms.
If kids get pissed when their devices are taking away, that’s okay. In this day and age, growing up means getting and managing FOMO. Start ‘em early, and remember who’s in charge.
In an observational study of 55 parents and kids dining at fast-food restaurants, a Boston Medical Center pediatrician watched 40 of the adults tap away on devices throughout the meal. Researchers found that kids were more likely to act out to get these parents’ attention.
If you can’t make it through Taco Tuesday dinner without checking your own email, what are your kids to think? Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, recommends parents and other caretakers use their own devices out of kids’ eyeshot.
During transitional periods, like school drop-off and pick-up, parents should stick their phones away. Of course you don’t want to hear about your six-year-old’s day at school — Finger painting, again? Wow! — but that’s your job. If you’re a working parent, unplug during that first hour when you get home.
Devices are more entwined with our lives than ever before, and that’s not going to change. We’re more distracted, our attentions are more divided. But if parents hope to raise socially well-adjusted children, they must first take charge of their own digital media use.