How Much is Too Much When It Comes to Screen Time?

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LEADERS IN TECH SHARE THEIR RULES FOR THEIR KIDS

For many kids, school is already over and the summer fun has begun. In New Jersey where I live, we have one whole week till my boys are home all day. All. The. Time. Gone are the unstructured summer fun days of my youth, when we would go swimming all day in the lake and exploring in the woods behind our home. I know what my boys, 11 and 13 years old, will do. They will race each other to see who can get on the Xbox first and start playing Fortnite.

And that terrifies me. If I let them have their way, they would probably play videogames all day. And looking at the number of young people I see with their heads buried in their phones, I have a strong feeling that I’m not alone. But how much screen time is too much screen time? Are our children being hurt with all this social media? Will they even be able to converse face-to-face with others when they are older?

These are serious questions for which, horrifying as it is, there are no real clear answers on the long-term effects of all this screen time on the younger generation.

Researchers are discovering more evidence that screen time interferes with brain development, attention span, and delays social skill learning. But it is also a valuable tool for information, for socializing with one’s peers, and for fun and amusing videos. I mean, who doesn’t love watching a cute cat video when you’re feeling down?

And we do know that the use of mobile devices among all of us, and especially young people, is exploding. In fact, 45 percent of teens say they are online nearly constantly, and mobile device time for children under 9 has tripled in recent years to an average of 48 minutes per day.

 

NBC News asked some of today’s top tech executives what rules they give to their children in respect to screen time, and their answers may surprise you. Most of them have very strict rules limiting screen time to weekends only, or after the child does something productive first like reading, instituting strict controls on social sites like Instagram., and no devices in the bedroom (wow!).

I’m going to try to follow some of these rules that I know we can achieve in my home. No screens before 8am or after 10pm. My son’s middle school principal, who has weathered more than her share of social media scandals with students, emphatically cautions parents, “Nothing good happens after 10pm.” I believe her.

My sons will have to take breaks during the day where they will have to do something educational or do some chores or they sacrifice screen time for the rest of the day.

Family and child counselors advise the best way to lay down these kinds of summer rules in when everyone is calm and well rested and we can sit at the kitchen table and discuss the rules. It’s important to let your kids respond, and to hear them. That doesn’t mean we have to give the kids want they want, of course, but even if they don’t get what they want, it will be easier to stomach if the child at least feels heard by his parents.

I won’t lie and say any of this is going to be easy. But we’re talking about our kids! We can’t let them become the test lab rats for the effects of too much tech.

We need to let them be kids first.

I’ll report back in September and let you know how it went.