We know you’re busy, but please take a moment to consider the following data regarding kids and screens:
• The average age for kids getting a first phone is 10.3 years old.
• 95% of teens now have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online “almost constantly.”
• Most kids score their first social media accounts at an average age of 11.4 years old (in spite of the fact users must be 13 years of age to open an account).
• 59% of parents feel their teens are “addicted” to their mobile devices
• 50% of teens say they feel “addicted” to their mobile devices.
This last data point bears repeating: HALF of all teens surveyed admit to feeling addicted to their mobile devices.
Parental concern about tech “addiction” (not considered an official clinical diagnosis, by the way) is topmost on the minds of parents we meet at the schools we visit. Yet, societal pressures make it difficult for parents to take measures to cure this problem or even to prevent it, even though compelling data suggests kids need their help. Screens, it turns out, are no match for kids or their parents.
Why Screens Are Winning
When teens say they feel “addicted” to their devices, believe them. Dopamine, the “feel-good chemical,” is released in their brains’ pleasure center when they’re playing Fortnite or collecting “likes” on Instagram. On a brain scan this activity looks the same as it would were the teen eating chocolate or even doing drugs. Technology rewards and encourages “addictive” behavior by doling out notifications, cuing up YouTube videos the moment the one being watched is over, awarding trophies when “Snapstreaks” are maintained, and much more. Kids are toast when it comes to technology’s pull.
So What’s a Busy Parent To Do?
Here are some ideas to help you win the battle with screens:
• Before giving your children their first mobile device, ask yourself: Do my young children really need or phone, or are you/they succumbing to pressure because everyone has one?
• Consider starting your young children out with a “dumb” phone, one that simply allows calling or texting and not unfettered access to the Internet?
• When you do give your children access to a phone or computer, learn how to use that device’s built-in parental controls.
• Better yet, install more comprehensive parental controls on your children’s devices—the kind that monitors screen time, offers Internet filtering, blocks unsuitable apps, games, and social media, and can even locate your children. Good news! Mobicip offers these feature plus lots more.
• In addition to external controls, help your children build self-control by setting time limits on their technology use, placing restrictions on the apps they can download and use, and even helping them understand the importance of respecting age restrictions.
• Practice and model your own time limits and self-management too.
• Ask your children’s schools if they are teaching the digital citizenship and literacy skills that help students learn how to use technology safely and wisely like this program does.
• Finally, arm yourself with knowledge! Cyberwise, aka “No Grownup Left Behind” is a great place to start!
In the ongoing battle of kids vs. screens, we’re rooting for you. Good luck!
Diana Graber, founder of Cyber Civics and co-founder of Cyberwise, is the author of the forthcoming book, “Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology” (HarperCollins Leadership/Jan. ’19).