Revisiting The Question of Device Use Among Children and Parents: Is it Time to say NO to Electronic Devices for Your Children?


Dr. Corinne Masur

It’s said that California is ten years ahead of the rest of the nation.  Well, in this Sunday’s New York Times (10/28/18), an article appeared talking about the fact that Silicon Valley parents are banning electronic devices from their children’s lives.

Have they solved the unending debate about this subject, finally concluding that YES, electronic devices ARE bad for our children?

“Even a little screen time can be so addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles”, the article says. Some parents are requiring that their babysitters sign a “no screen time contract” stating that neither the babysitter nor the children she/he is caring for spend time on screen during the period of employment.

Evidently, all these people working for tech companies are now panicking about the effect of technology on their own children.

Vigilantes are posting photos of nannies using cell phones while caring for children so that parents can then reprimand – or fire – the nannies.

Everything has changed in the past year, says one nanny quoted in the article; “parents are much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids” and are saying, “Reel it back, no screen time at all.”

Parents are finding that, when engaged on phones or computers, kids don’t listen to a thing they say.  But guess what?  Kids are also finding that when engaged on phones or computers, their parents aren’t listening to a thing THEY say.

Is this how we want to live as families?

Perhaps we in other areas of the U.S. shouldn’t wait ten years to catch up with California this time.  Perhaps we need to evaluate our own habits and those of our children and make changes NOW in order to make sure that the time we spend together, we actually spend TOGETHER, not on our devices.

You say that you simply cannot ban cell phone use at home because you yourself want to look at the phone when you are home with your children?

Well how about trying at least to limit your own use – and that of other family members – by implementing one or more of these:

  1. No screens at all for children under 3
  2. No cell phones at meals for ANYONE in the family
  3. No cell phone use while on vacation between the hours of 9AM and 9PM
  4. No cell phone or computer use during specified hours EACH day
  5. Place a basket at the entrance to your home where cell phones are placed when each person comes in the door

Or perhaps you can think up some of your own limits on screen use to suit your family?

Establishing boundaries on your use of electronic devices at home will help to provide more actual family time – but it will also help your children internalize the idea that electronics usage CAN be limited. So many children are struggling now to get their homework done without looking at their screens, or to sleep a full night without waking up to look at their phones.  These kids feel alone with the struggle, both wanting to stay up to date with friends on Instagram and Snapchat, AND knowing they need to do certain things uninterrupted.  Without some help, without some modeling by parents, our children are having to navigate this new world on their own – and often they are failing to find a way to set reasonable limits for themselves on their phone and social media consumption.

Parents – it’s time to take control over your children’s use of electronic devices just as some parents are doing in California – or in a way that suits your particular family’s needs.  AND it is time to take control of your own use of devices around your children. The science is just not entirely available yet.  Cell phones and computers have been around for too short a time for reliable longitudinal studies on the effect of the use of electronic devices on development.  But common sense tells us that knowledge of how to use and program electronic devices will help our children to function in the world of the future, and that constant use of cell phones and computers will hamper their interpersonal skills, physical activity levels, and participation in real life experiences starting now and continuing throughout their lives.



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