Are Your Kids Negatively Impacted By Their Screen Media Use?
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
(listen to article read by the author)
How much time are your kids spending on digital media every week? Where do your children spend their entertainment screen time? Do they like watching videos or TV, interacting on social media, playing video games, listening to music or podcasts or texting friends?
Screen media likely plays an important role in your children’s lives. As many schools moved to remote teaching due to the pandemic, your kids may be spending even more time in front of screens. This digital connectivity has allowed them to keep learning even while being physically distant.
Are you worried about how much your kids are on digital devices? Are you concerned about what they are doing and with who? How do you know if your kids are being negatively impacted by their screen media use?
Problematic Activities Involving Screen Media
One area of concern is around what your children are doing when they are using media. When you do not monitor what your kids are watching or doing online, you are unable to provide guidance.
Unfortunately kids get in trouble in various ways when online. Some potential problems to watch for include:
- Sharing personal details like name, address, school, birthdate, current location
- Sharing emotional struggles in a public way
- Sending naked pictures of themselves through texting or email
- Watching porn
- Video chatting with strangers
- Listening to music that promotes values your family does not support
- Participating in anonymous sites or apps that are prone to bullying and being bullied
- Downloading illegal movies or songs with the risk of a lawsuit
- Learning about ways to inflict self-harm
- Spending your money on virtual or real merchandise that you have not approved
- Sharing their passwords with their friends
- Giving personal information in response to scams or phishing schemes
The possibility of your kids engaging in inappropriate media activities increases when they are with their friends. What are your policies around digital devices when friends are over? Do you allow kids to keep their digital devices when they are at your house for a sleepover? How do you monitor what they are doing? Discuss your rules ahead of time with your own children so they know what to expect and what will happen if the rules are broken.
Problems Caused By Too Much Screen Media
Kids love screens. So why does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend limiting entertainment screen time for children and teens? Excessive screen time interferes with social, emotional, and physical development. If your child exhibits some of the signs below, it’s time to put some limits on screen time.
Social and Emotional
- Prefers spending time on screens to doing things with family or friends
- Experiences difficulty making and keeping friends
- Has angry outbursts when it’s time for the screen to go off
- Acts irritable or discontent when not using digital items
- Lacks concern or empathy for others
- Has difficulty initiating or participating in conversations
- Regularly misinterprets non-verbal social cues
- Texts instead of talking in situations where face-to-face communication would be better
- Has difficulty focusing on the present moment when not using a screen
- Declining grades in school, missing school, dreading school
- Talking and thinking obsessively about the digital activity
- Withdrawing from sports and outside play, being physically active less than two hours/day
- Losing sleep due to gaming, texting
- Gaining weight to the point of being overweight or obese
- Developing health issues such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, eye problems, backaches
When you realize your children's media usage is having a negative impact, you need to set some limits. Discuss with your kids what limits are reasonable and how your family plans to enforce those limits.
One dad realized that whenever his kids played video games, after they shut off the games they often fought with each other. It was like the violence in the games carried over to real life. The dad improved the situation by having his kids do a short meditation immediately after playing video games. The meditation allowed them to re-enter the family in a more emotionally grounded way.
Preventing problems in the first place is far easier than fixing them later. If you are struggling to set healthy
limits, learn how to do it in Priceless Parenting’s online parenting classes