Reducing Screen Time–Even Just a Little–Makes a Big Difference

mrdad - screen time ripple effect

mrdad - screen time ripple effectDear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have an 11-year-old who’s very tech savvy and spends a lot of time on her phone and computer. A lot of experts—you included—talk about how we parents should cut back on our kids screen time. That sounds like a great idea, except that we both work full time and are exhausted when we get home, and neither of us has the energy to get into a battle with our daughter. We tried limiting her screen time, but after a few weeks, we didn’t see any difference in her behavior or her grades. Is there really any point in forcing the issue? Our home seems a lot more peaceful when don’t bug our daughter.

A: I love technology, and I’m constantly amazed at the marvelous things it allows us to do. But when it comes to kids (and many adults), there can be too much of a good thing. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that children spend an average of seven hours per day in front of some kind of screen (TV, computer, phones, and other devices). In addition, quite a bit of research indicates that there’s a direct correlation between screen time and obesity, eating disorders, poor academic performance, and other problems.

In our gut, most parents understand that we need to monitor our children’s screen time, but given how pervasive screens are in our daily life, limiting them is really hard. What makes it even harder is that, as you pointed out, it doesn’t produce immediate benefits. As a result, we can get frustrated, question why we’re trying in the first place, and simply give up rather than risk getting sucked into a knock-down-drag-out fight.
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Pay No Attention to That Program Behind the Screen

Dear Mr. Dad: My baby just turned one and I went to pick him up a little early from his daycare to celebrate. When I got there, the kids were crawling around but the TV was on and tuned to some kind of reality show. I asked the sitter why, and she said “So what?” and told me that the TV is often on in the background and that it’s no big deal. My gut says she’s wrong. But before I fire her, I need something to back me up. What’s so bad about TV?

A: Honestly, do you really an excuse to fire a sitter who shouldn’t be caring for kids? But since you asked—and since you’re not the only parent out there who’s not sure whether it’s okay for babies to watch TV—here goes.
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Manual to Manhood + Middle School Makeover

Jonathan Catherman, author of The Manual to Manhood.
How to cook the perfect steak, change a tire, impress a girl, and 97 other survival skills for young men.
Issues: As a man in the making, you’ll need to know how to do stuff. You also need a strong moral character to back up your new abilities. Here are step-by-step instructions for just about everything you need to know.

Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover.
: Improving the way you and your child experience the middle school years.
Issues: Helping your kid through real middle school problems, including social media, questions about sex, mean girls (and boys), and fitting in, dealing with bullies, fashion, peer pressure, dating, independence, and more.

Redefining Girly

Melissa Atkins Wardy, author of Redefining Girly.
Topic: How parents can fight the stereotyping and sexualizing of girlhood
Issues: How to redefine girly in your home; getting friends and family on board; navigating kids’ play; how to avoid stereotyping girls and boys; saying no to sexed-up toys and too-sexy-too-soon parties.

The Big Disconnect

[amazon asin=0062082426&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect.
Protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age.
Issues: How technology can put children’s development at risk; how tech is keeping children from forming close interactions with the adults in their life; insights and advice that can help parents achieve greater understanding, authority, and confidence when dealing with their kids and technology.

Setting Limits to Preserve Focus, Privacy, and Relationships

[amazon asin=B00F8LP87Q&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Anne Katherine, author of Boundaries in an Overconnected World.
Setting limits to preserve your focus, privacy, relationships, and sanity
Issues: Making social media, smart phones, and other devices work for you rather than against; tips to keep you focused at work and home; how to tell whether you’ve got a tech boundary problem; protecting your identity and your reputation; what to do if you can’t set boundaries for yourself (or your family).