Raising kids in a digital age

Ann Sherman, Nederland.   It is estimated that infants watch 2.5 hours per day of TV, while children use 7.5 and teens 9 hours per day of entertainment technologies (cell phone, TV, internet). Children and youth are using 4 -5 times the recommended amount of technology– with serious consequences.


Thirty-nine percent of parents use 11 or more hours per day of screen media during their leisure time. The negative impact of screens on child development and social relationships is becoming evident in homes and schools throughout the country. To understand many of the concerns, see “Ten reasons why hand held devices should be banned for children under the age of 12” by Movingtolearn.ca

About 50 local parents gathered last week to watch the documentary Screenagers at Nederland Middle Senior High. They each came with questions and concerns about how to raise healthy kids in a digital age. When middle and high school students at NMSHS viewed Screenagers earlier that day, many expressed concerns that their parents might set limits on their tech use. They assumed technology could not create addictions like the dopamine rush that substance abuse provides.  Bringing Screenagers to Nederland allows for this community conversation to take place.

Breakout sessions led by local experts followed the evening film.  Patti Schader, certified mindfulness therapist helped parents evaluate their own relationship to technology. Mark Mabbett, NMSHS librarian and media guru, taught parents how to utilize parental control settings on their children’s devices.


Adeline Holter, therapist at TEENS, Inc., along with Corrie Beauvineau, MA in Educational Psych with a Media specialty, gave ideas about how to create a family agreement and set boundaries around tech usage. Kari Green, site nurse at NMSHS and Dr. Brett Kennedy, addictions therapist, answered parent’s questions about the physical, cognitive, and social emotional impacts of screen time on their children. Tracy Markle, digital media addictions therapist, provided resources and counsel for parents worried that their children are already unable to limit Internet, phone time, and gaming.

If you missed the film and discussions, you can still access the articles and resources offered to parents at   https://sites.google.com/bvsd.org/screenagers-in-ned/home   In a nutshell, here is a summary of many of the ideas from the evening–

First Step:  RATE how much time your entire family spends on screens each day. Once the rate is determined, compare the recommendations for a balanced lifestyle from ZONEIN.ca to the age of your child.  The MOMENT app is a great way to track your use.  As adults are attaching more to their devices, many are detaching from their children.  Ask yourself if you are being mindfully aware of your own usage and the missed chances to connect with your child?

0-2 years old:  Rough and tumble interactions facilitate healthy child development.  No tech usage is recommended; not even passive TV.

3- 5 years old:  Spend your time building strong social connections with your child through play. Try not to use technology to soothe, reward or babysit your child. No more than 1 hour of pro-social, educational tech per day- watched together.

5-12 years old:  Balance any pro-social tech usage with the same amount of physical activity.  Do not allow unsupervised viewing or transportable devices. 2 hours/day maximum.

13 -18 years old:  Introduce cellphones and Ipads. Unplug at dinner and at least one day per week.  Do not allow use of multi-platform gaming (Violent video games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are the most addictive technology available). Research the content of games at www.ESRB.org.  Continue to keep technology out of bedrooms or other isolated areas.  Maximum use 2 hrs/day.

2nd Step:  RESET by determining a daily or weekly time to ‘unplug’ from all family technology.


Disconnecting from technology, and reconnecting with family members, can be difficult if we aren’t used to having much family time together.  Start by having dinner together as a family, without technology.

3rd Step: REORDER by replacing time spent using technology with alternate activities. Technology kills a lot of time which could be filled with more healthy and inter-connected family activities.  Make it a point to schedule alternative activities to do together or for your children to do with their friends. Perhaps suggest the adoption of family theme nights where the activities do not center around technology.

4th Step: RULES– agree upon rules that will support all family technology being unplugged for periods of time. Use this list of family contracts to get ideas about the boundaries you may want to set:


https://mediatechparenting.net/contracts-and-agreements/  Learn how to use parental controls for each device your child uses at https://sites.google.com/bvsd.org/screenagers-in-ned/home.   A current Kaiser study found 60% of parents do not limit screen time for their children and 75% of families allow screens in bedrooms and isolated basements where they are not monitored.  Take the time to create some healthy boundaries and rules for your children.

5th step:  REACH OUT– If your children display intense reactions to the change in tech usage, ask for help from a therapist to set boundaries together.  Tracy Markle and Brett Kennedy from Digital Media Treatment Center in Boulder specialize in issues with digital use addiction.  About 1 in 11 children from age 8 -18 are experiencing digital media addiction.  Children with ADHD, depression, social anxiety, substance abuse, learning disabilities, and those on the Autism spectrum are at higher risk for developing tech addictions.  Talk with other parents about how they are managing tech usage in their homes.  There are many ideas about how to create balance in a digital world.