Real world help for childrens’ lives online
Guess what? You are not the only one in your household worried about screen time. Roughly nine-in-ten teens think spending too much time online is a problem facing people their age, including 60% who say it is a major problem, according to the Pew Research Center. More than half teens worry that they spend too much time staring at screens.
So it’s not you against the world when it comes to Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. You and your family are in this together.
This shared worry has potential for a great partnership, says Portland-based family counselor, Yshai Boussi, LPC. “Instead of fighting over limiting screens, families are probably better off thinking together about how time spent online can improve well-being and what steps can limit clear risks of social media such as bullying, unfavorable comparisons personal comparisons and FOMO (fear of missing out).”
“This stuff isn’t going away. Learning how to responsibly use technology so that it serves us and not the other way around will be an everlasting challenge,” says Yshai. “Our main job is to inoculate kids from the harmful aspects of their devices.”
“We do this by ensuring they’re taught empathy (giving them ours and building up theirs), self-reflection, resilience, self-control and problem solving. These are essential skills to be learned. Practice, repetition and reflection are the only ways to do it. Taking away phones as a consequence for behavioral problems rarely helps build up these muscles and typically exacerbates the problems.”
Helping the Online Generation Develop Accurate Empathy and Healthy Relationships
It can feel as though technology is an asteroid hurtling towards earth, leaving us helpless against the inevitable destruction of our kids’ minds and hearts. However staying stuck in this mindset will leave us feeling anxious and powerless, says Yshai. “And perhaps worse, we’ll miss out on key opportunities to connect and relate to our kids.” But we can help our children have an online existence that is literate, ethical, positive and manageable. Yshai suggests 8 things you can do starting today.
Notifications, endless scrolls and auto-play features make it nigh impossible for a young person to click the off button. “Besides, nothing good happens online after 10 pm,” says Yshai. Plus the blue light from screens decreases melotonin by up to 25%. Ideally screens should be turned off an hour before sleep.” The easiest solution: don’t allow devices in the bedroom after bedtime.
“Kids don’t mind not having a phone for an hour or two. They might even feel relief,” says Yshai. “They may hate the reasons why the phone is taken, for example as a discipline or punishment. They’ll respond best if they feel included in the decision.” Keep the eating table phone free for everyone. The facedown phone isn’t good enough.
“How they’re behaving offline is a good indication of their behavior online,” says Yshai. Experiment with device-free nights or weekends. It helps to come up with replacement activities: a trip, sharing a book, planning a party.
Children learn unconsciously from nonverbal cues. “Specialized mirror neurons in the brain with the job of building a sense of a connection and understanding with others mean that a young person may unconsciously imitate a parent,” says Yshai. Your personal habits with screens will always talk louder than anything you say.
Instead of mocking or criticizing what you think is happening online, ask your child to share a favorite game with you, connect on Facebook, watch 15 minutes of her favorite TikTok videos. “These are opportunities to learn and grow together, reduce conflict and vastly reduce the risk that your teen will be subversive and destructive online,” says Yshai.
“There is no such thing,” Yshai says. “It’s more like distracted tasking.” Point out that keeping a phone open increases homework time by up to 400%. In addition to taking longer, memory and retention of what was learned also goes down. And here’s a freebie: you probably can’t multi-task, either.
Develop social/emotional mindfulness skills
“Online time involves lots of looking at, observing, being entertained,” Yshai points out. “It doesn’t leave much space for inward awareness to what’s going on inside.” That is why it’s important for adults to help children recognize and label how they feel while on line. Computers teach young minds to expect a fast response or quick resolution from humans. But humans need time to process and work through feelings, thoughts, ideas, and concepts. Mindfulness apps like Calm and Headspace are increasingly popular among teens for this reason.
3 hidden costs of screen time
Experts point to factors that may have long term consequences for the iGeneration:
Is screen time interfering with sleep time?
Is your child missing out on the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of exercise a day?
Is screen time cutting into real life face-to-face relationships with family and friends?
A positive side of the online generation?
Teens today are partaking in “adult” activities less often. The number of teenagers who tried alcohol between 2010 and 2016 dropped to 67%. That’s down from 93% for teenagers between 1976 and 1979. The number of teens who had engaged in sexual activity by the end of high school also dropped by 12% between 1994 and 2016. Some experts have attributed this fall in adult behavior to the rise of social media and internet use.