I have 2 small children, but already the number of screens in my household outnumber the people! Though there are benefits to digital hand held devices (we use them for reading, counting, learning Spanish, looking up recipes, etc), my view is that nothing can replace the impact of face-to-face time interacting with other human beings. Maybe I’m old fashioned? I’m from the unique generation that grew up with computers, but also remembers a time before the internet.

There is growing body of research describing potential impacts on child development when exposed to media. This includes problematic internet usage, virtual violence, depression and mental health, and attention.

In the documentary Screenagers, Dr. Delaney Ruston explores screens and today’s teens. This documentary was engaging, at times scary, and very real.

Here are the tips I took from the film:

Social media impacts the brain –  dopamine release and pleasure is a normal function of the brain when seeking information and finding it. This is constantly occurring when we check our phone to look for texts, instant messages, and alerts on social media. It’s no wonder we can’t put our phones away.

No one can actually multitask – you can shift attention rapidly, but the cost is poor performance in what you are trying to accomplish.

Tips for parents on managing media with teens (and ourselves):
1. Setting limits – with your teen’s input, very important to set boundaries around device use. Rather than giving a device (like a phone or tablet) and telling all the expectations, come with some set boundaries, but also ask your teen for their input around expectations and consequences.
1. If you are attempting to put limits on (video) gaming and your teen has a tantrum – consider using tech time as a reward/consequence. For example, you have 2 hours/day to start. If your teen doesn’t get homework done, that drops to 30 min. Then hold firm. The tantrums will diminish as the teen learns you’re going to be consistent.
2. Consider adding a “Tech talk Tuesday. Dr. Ruston incorporating time on Tuesday’s to talk about technology’s influence on family members. It is a way to sit and have a conversation with loved ones about the pros and cons of media.
3. Have tech free zones – bedroom, the car, the dining table are all examples of places to remain tech free.
4. In the film, teens shared their ideas for limiting media use – going for a jog, turning off the data plan when doing homework, giving a password to a trusted friend and having them reset it and not tell them for a few days to take a break, downloading an app to block certain sites were all ways they set personal limits on screen time.