Screen Time and Kids: Understanding How Tech Impacts Children
Are your kids addicted to their digital devices?
Do you want to help them have a healthier relationship with technology?
To learn how you can help your kids make smart technology choices, I interview Dr. Jim Taylor for this episode of the Parenting Adventures podcast.
More About This Show
The Parenting Adventures podcast is a show from My Kids’ Adventures.
It’s for parents (and grandparents) who are looking for creative things to do with their kids.
The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).
In this episode, I interview Dr. Jim Taylor, an international authority on the psychology of parenting.
He has written 14 books, including Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Children for a Media-Fueled World and Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child. Jim has published more than 700 scholarly articles and has made regular appearances on major television networks.
Jim shares how digital technology impacts our kids.
You’ll discover how to understand the benefits and challenges of technology, help your kids have a healthy relationship with tech and set appropriate guidelines, as well as rewards for living a less plugged-in life.
Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Electronics and Kids
How Jim came to have a passion for working with children
A tech geek himself, Jim, who is father to two girls, works with a lot of young people and their parents to help them navigate the challenges that come with raising children in today’s world.
He explains how technology isn’t going away—and that we’ll not revert back to those primitive days of just television and radio.
As technology continues to become more important, the impact it has on kids will depend on their (and their parents’) relationship with technology. It will also come down to what sort of guidance parents set.
Listen to the show to find out why technology is neither good nor bad.
The downside of technology
Jim says that the most fundamental downside of technology is the opportunity cost.
The amount of time that kids spend in front of a screen is time they could use to study, exercise, interact with others or participate in activities that are a little healthier and better for their development.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study that came out a few years ago, on average kids spend 7½ hours a day in front of a screen not related to school. Jim says that it doesn’t add up. If kids get 8 hours of sleep a night; go to school during the day; bathe, eat and have other activities; then you’re looking at a day that’s much longer than 24 hours.
Jim believes that while early exposure to technology is probably not going to scar your kids, only some technology will actually “educate” them.
You’ll hear why the Baby Einstein Company removed the word educational from all of their materials, and what Jim feels when apps and websites use this word in their products.
Jim states that technology has emerged so quickly and has become so much a part of our culture that we’re only able to look at the implications and the impact in a rearview mirror.
Although the American Psychiatric Association is unwilling to add Internet addiction as a psychiatric disorder, there are facilities around the country that treat it.
This type of addiction is believed to be a psychological addiction, but Jim says there is some emerging research that shows it as neurochemical—it’s occurring in the brain. The connection that kids and adults have with technology has the same neurochemical effect as drugs, alcohol and gambling.
Jim’s biggest concern is how kids use technology. In an article he wrote for Psychology Today called, “iPhone: High-Tech Child Abuse?,” he talks about how parents give their kids an iPhone as a solution to boredom or crankiness.
Parents use mobile devices to entertain their kids during dinner. When families interact with their phones and not each other, it’s unsettling, as well as a detriment to our kids’ development.
Listen to the show to find out how technology stunts the development of relationship skills.
Digital addiction among kids
Jim explains that kids are addicted to technology if their need to use tech causes them to make bad choices, interferes with their quality of life or inhibits their ability to function normally.
Just because a kid struggles in school or behaves poorly doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because of technology. However, you should be concerned if they stay up too late and the amount of sleep they get suffers because they’re unable to get off their computer or smartphone. This is when screen time can have an impact on their school work.
Like anything, it’s better to prevent digital addiction than to help kids overcome it. Jim suggests that you should set limits on your kids’ use of technology and provide guidance in terms of what kind of technology they’re allowed to use.
Listen to the show to learn why you shouldn’t worry about your kids being tech-savvy.
Should you go cold turkey with devices and your kids?
There was a battle, just like with any sort of addict. Kids will fight for their drug, which is technology.
Jim explains why it’s important not to go cold turkey, unless you’re willing to hang in there.
In these cases, the kids started to see that their life was better after a while. Their lives were less stressful, more relaxed and more interesting. They ultimately bought into it.
An alternative to going cold turkey is to set screen time limits.
Start to ease off the use. If your kids are on a screen 4 hours a day, go to 3 hours or 2 hours.
The other option, Jim says, is to set tech-free times. For example, no technology after 9pm (so your kids get a good night’s sleep), no technology over dinner—or as Jim does with his family—no technology until noon on Sundays. They just hang out, unplug and do stuff as a family.
Kids will model your behavior, so if you have an unhealthy relationship with technology, your kids will think that’s just the way it should be. Your efforts to cut down on tech will be useless if you don’t change your own digital behaviors as well.
Listen to the show to learn how much screen time is appropriate for kids.
What can parents and kids do as an alternative to technology
Jim says if parents decide to limit their kids’ technology, you must make an effort to help your kids find alternative things to do. Help them build stuff, create play dates, find games and activities, send them to camp and so on. Because if you don’t replace technology, kids will go back to it.
Real interaction with others is far more interesting than screen activities.
You’ll hear what you can do as a parent to get your kids on board when you start to limit their time on electronics.
Listen to the show to learn how some parents use technology to medicate their kids.
When tech is good for kids
Jim explains that technology isn’t inherently bad. It’s all in how it’s used. If kids want to spend a little free time to use technology in a healthy way, then that’s their choice.
The most important thing as a parent is to make deliberate decisions about what’s best for your kids.
You need to educate yourself about technology so when you see your kids on a smartphone, tablet or computer, you can limit poor use and encourage appropriate use—but only for an hour at a time.
Listen to the show to learn how parents can get their kids to agree to use less technology.
Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:
- Connect with Dr. Jim Taylor on his website.
- Check out Jim’s books: Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Children for a Media-Fueled World and Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child.
- Subscribe to Jim’s Prime Family Alert!
- Learn more about the Kaiser Family Foundation study on Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.
- Take a look at how Baby Einstein Company markets its products.
- Read Jim’s article in Psychology Today: “iPhone: High-Tech Child Abuse?”
- Find out more about the meaning of cold turkey.
- Check out these parent control apps for the Internet and mobile phones.
Ways to subscribe to the Parenting Adventures podcast:
What do you think? What are your thoughts on limiting your child’s screen time? Please leave your comments below.
Images from iStockPhoto.
I am a dad of three kids, the founder of My Kids' Adventures and the founder of Social Media Examiner. I also host the Parenting Adventures podcast. Other posts by Michael Stelzner »