In a world dominated by screens, guiding our children towards real-life experiences has become more crucial than ever. And screen time is on the rise among young children. A recent Common Sense Media study found that “8-12 year-olds spend an average of 5 ½ hours a day on screens and consuming media. That rate climbs to over 8 ½ hours a day for teens.”

So what can we do? Do we fall into the wave of thinking tech use is just “normal” for kids these days? I’d like to suggest not. The costs are just too high. From endless entertainment options that decrease your attention span, to the pressures of social media, the digital landscape can overwhelm our tweens and teens, impacting their mental and emotional well-being. So let’s take a look at what we can do.

First – Understanding the Impact

Research suggests that prolonged exposure to screens can hinder cognitive development, disrupt sleep patterns, and contribute to feelings of anxiety and stress.

As noted in the recently popular book, The Anxious Generation, children are experiencing more anxiety than ever before, directly correlated to a dynamic increase in technology, lead by the release of the iPhone in 2010 and increase in Internet Gaming Addiction (added as a mental health diagnosis in the DSM 5 in 2013):

Why is anxiety on the rise? Jonathan Haidt argues:

“As young children move their social relationships online, those relationships become disembodied, asynchronous, and sometimes disposable…Instead of gaining an experience of social mastery, a child is often left with a sense of social incompetence, loss of status, and anxiety about future social interactions.

We are misallocating our protective efforts. We should be giving children more of the practice they need in the real world and delaying their entry into the online world, where the benefits are fewer and the guardrails nearly non-existent.” -The Anxious Generation

Parental Strategies for Success

Now, let’s delve into practical strategies for managing screen time and nurturing responsible tech habits in our children:

1. Get Clear

When it comes to managing screen time for kids aged 5 to 12, it’s super important for both parents and kids to be on the same page. Let’s keep things crystal clear so nobody’s left guessing. Make an agreement with your child as to how much time they are allowed to be on screens each day. This doesn’t completely avoid arguments, but drastically decreases them.

Talking with your kids about the rules and involving them in making the plan can make a big difference. It’s also smart to think ahead about how to enforce the rules. For example, if your child sneaks extra screen time, agree on a consequence that would make sense. It might require you to find a special spot to store the Xbox, or storing the remote in your room until the next day that tech use is allowed.

2. Get Prepared

Have visuals that show what you’ve agreed on regarding tech time. This could mean making a simple schedule on paper or using a dry erase board, with each box representing ½ hour, and the child marking off time as they use it.

3. Get Ready for an Extinction Burst

When you’re trying to set new rules for screen time with kids aged 5 to 12, be prepared for a bit of a bumpy ride at first. It’s what we call an “extinction burst,” where they might try extra hard to bend the rules, kind of like when you keep pushing a vending machine hoping for snacks to fall out. But don’t worry, if you stick to the plan and gently remind them with a compassionate, “I love you, and the answer is no,” things will start to calm down.

4. Allow them to be bored

Even though it might seem like they’ll be too bored to ever stop bugging you about screen time, trust that they’ll eventually find other things to do. Sure, there might be some grumbling and irritation along the way, but hang in there because it does get better. Just keep showing them love and sticking to the plan, and before you know it, they’ll be happily engaged in other activities.

Parenting in today’s digital world presents its challenges, yet it’s also a chance to bond with our kids and foster their development. By setting clear rules, preparing ahead, and staying patient, we can help our children find the right balance between technology and real-life fun. It’s not about being perfect but making progress together.

If you’re interested in joining a group of like-minded concerned parents looking to impact the “norm” of tech addiction for local children, reach out to Flora via

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