In the first post, we examined the idea that much of our sacred personal time is being wasted in fruitless interactions with our electronic devices. Another prevalent issue is that these devices often expose family members to inappropriate material.
First of all, here is the bad news about protecting our kids from the darker aspects of screen-time. If you have an older kid that is bent on getting access to inappropriate material it is virtually impossible to stop. Even if you isolate your home from the internet, you would be hard pressed to stop your child from walking in the door with downloaded material that he could view on a friends old phone or even on an mp3 player. So what is a parent to do?
Well, first you should do everything reasonable to prevent accidental encounters with pornography and to limit screen time appropriately. This is easier with younger children but it can be done with older children as well, just be prepared to weather the storm of complaints.
Second, we have to engage with our children and teach them about the dangers associated with risky screen-time behavior. One especially risky behavior is of sending nude or partial nude selfies called sexting. Sexting can very often lead to cyberbullying and harassment, not to mention embarrassment. You might be surprised that almost 15% of youth admitted to sexting [note] Madigan S, Ly A, Rash CL, Van Ouytsel J, Temple JR. Prevalence of Multiple Forms of Sexting Behavior Among YouthA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(4):327–335. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5314[/note]. Also alarming is the relationship between depression and suicide associated with screen time by a study referenced here in this Forbes article. There are lots of reasons you may want to limit screen time including the robbing of personal time mentioned in the previous post. If you are convinced that you want to limit screen-times lets brainstorm some ways to go about it.
Brainstorming is the process of listing every idea you can think of (no matter if it seems good or dumb) and examining that list to find a viable solution.
Idea 1. Get rid of electronic devices / limit access
As I said brainstorming is about looking at all the ideas even if you think they are dumb. I imagine most people these days would consider this idea of dumping their electronic to be too extreme, or unreasonable. I did personally know of a family that had one TV and when it broke they decided not to replace it. For them, it seemed to be a good idea. They felt like they had a better quality of life without a TV. If you have a chance to see the 1990 movie called “Avalon”, pay attention to how TV affects this family.
Another idea to lump into this category is to limit access to these electronic devices. I knew a guy that said he treated his TV like the vacuum cleaner. He kept it in the closet and only pulled it out when they had a specific reason to watch it. Along this line of thinking, instead of giving a child a cell phone, you could have a floater phone that the child could borrow when you needed to stay in touch during some activity or event. Laptop computers could also be put away and pulled out for school work only as needed. Basically, the idea is to sever the always available aspect of screens.
In our family, I personally campaigned for no smart devices for our kids when they were younger. Unfortunately, I lost the campaign. At the time IPODs were all the rage and truly neither of us as parents fully comprehended the trouble our kids could get into with these devices. Looking back we both admit that life would have been much easier had we held off longer. Keep it simple if you can by reducing the number of points of screen exposure.
In the next post, I will discuss more options for parental screen control.