Screen Time and Kids: Understanding How Tech Impacts Children

podcast iconAre 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

parenting adventures podcast michael stelzner

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!

young girl tuning old radio

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

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.

young girl watching tv

We will never live in a world of just television and radio again. Image source: iStockphoto

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.

boy in bedroom using laptop and listening to mp3 player

Kids miss many opportunities when they are in front of a screen. Image source: iStockphoto

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.

todler looking at laptop

Not all online educational content will actually educate your kids. Image source: iStockphoto

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.

baby einstein

Baby Einstein products are no longer branded as educational.

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.

the power of prime

Jim’s article on why as a parent you shouldn’t pacify your child with an iPhone.

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.

boy at laptop in the night

When kids stay up far too late on the computer, you have to recognize it as a problem. Image source: iStockphoto

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?

raising generation tech book cover

Jim’s book, Raising Generation Tech.

In his book, Raising Generation Tech, Jim uses a couple of examples of families that went cold turkey and just disconnected the Internet.

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.

family enjoying meal together at home

Start by making family dinnertime a screen-free zone. Image source: iStockphoto

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.

children playing ball

Outdoor play with others is far better for a child than to sit in front of a screen. Image source: iStockphoto

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:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on limiting your child’s screen time? Please leave your comments below.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

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 »


  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Mike. This is an important topic. There’s a lot of societal pressure–not just from the kids–to allow screen time. People used to look at me like I was crazy when I told them my toddler didn’t watch any TV.

  • EmilyQuestions

    A very important topic – technology is a good thing – but the old adage rings true, too much is never a good thing!

  • Lola Reed

    Thanks for this important podcast and article Mike- this is essential information for every parent. Leading by example is very powerful- and I realized not too long ago that I was always checking in on my iPhone and not being present at important family times. We’ve got a new routine going with no technology- no screens- during dinner and for at least an hour before bedtime. After the initial resistance, we’re all much happier and much more connected as a family. I’ve also been inching forward the no tech time to 90 minutes before bed without anyone even noticing- that’s a win!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Lola! I have a ways to go on this in my home, but agree it is a very important topic

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Agree Emily, thanks for your comment

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Yep, thanks Jen. It is a real issue a ton of us parents are facing for sure

  • Lola Reed

    Don’t be too hard on yourself Michael- you’ve done such a great service to so many families with this website and now the podcast (I also love the SME podcast!) Thanks so much to you and all your team for what you do here :-)

  • http://www.readysetstartup.com/ Susan Jones

    Thanks for this Michael and Jim. Tech time and how to put constructive limits on it is an issue in our family too.

    The challenge has been compounded this year with our oldest starting high school and having to have an iPad for school use.

    The thing that really struck me from the podcast was Jim’s comment that we can’t just take away tech and tell kids to amuse themselves. We need to teach them how to entertain themselves.

    I have noticed that tech is the default for my son because he doesn’t have a list of other options or resources front of mind. We’re coming up to holidays here in Australia, so it’s a great opportunity to plan some projects with him and get him excited about the many different ways there are to engage in the world.

    I’m also challenged to look at my own patterns of tech use. :-)

    Thanks again for putting this together guys. It was really helpful.

  • Gab

    Thank you not only for raising the topic but for the great content put together. I was looking for an article on how screen time can be harmful for young children the other day and I could not find anything this substantial – and they’re mostly complacent with the current state of family routine that does not really want to make significant changes to their screen-on habits.
    We do not watch tv in our house and my son is 3 years old. Of course we allow him some screen time (mostly ipad and iphone), but because I know that even carefully selected educational programs are not better than real interaction and playing on the dirt, I use it sparingly… we don’t think we’re missing out on anything and I see this as a major issue in our society today.

  • Sandy Zeiszler

    Awesome interview, much needed topic. Parents I work with have such a difficult time keeping up with the new technology/apps/games kids seem to find. Kids just are not able to comprehend that online “friends” are not always “friends”. Thanks for sharing so much valuable information.

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  • christiantoto

    Terrific interview. Made me reassess my own screen time habits and how my children absorb my behavior.

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