With social media and smartphones still a relatively new phenomenon, the verdict is still out on the long-term effects of screens on our kids. I know many of you worry about this, especially now when you have probably passed your child your phone or tablet much more than usual in recent months. All parents are desperate to keep their children from boredom right now when their usual activities are on hold, this is understandable.
At the same time, you’re conflicted about when and how your child can safely use devices.
Pew Research recently surveyed over 3,000 parents about their thoughts on screen time and their kids. They found…
“Roughly seven-in-ten parents think that children under the age of 12 using smartphones will hurt their ability to learn effective social skills (71%) or develop healthy friendships (68%). And just over half of all parents – 54% – say younger kids’ engagement with these devices will hurt their ability to do well in school.
At the same time, 67% of parents say their child age 11 or younger uses or interacts with a tablet computer, and 60% say the same for smartphones.”
Two-thirds of parents also agree that the digital age has made parenting harder than it was 20 years ago.
I have to agree. I’ve written about screen time often in the last few years as this is such a hot debate and concern for parents. And it’s not just about their kids. Parents are concerned about their own screen time. As the survey found:
“When asked if they spend too much, too little or not enough time on their smartphone, more than half (56%) of parents who have a minor child, but who may also have adult children, say they spend too much time on their smartphone, while about seven-in-ten (68%) say they are at least sometimes distracted by their phone when spending time with their children.”
Parents are worried about their own screen time. Parents are worried about their kids’ screen time. For this reason, I want to pose my final summer challenge to you: The Summer Social Media Challenge.
But this challenge has less to do with time spent on the screen and more to do with what you’re using that time for. If the idea of limiting your child’s screen time only to hear your child throw a fit over it each day stresses you out more than the potential effects that screen time may be having on your child, this challenge is for you.
For this challenge, I want you to focus on doing a social media cleanse. All of you. You, your partner, and your kids. Start filtering the content you are engaging with by answering the following questions.
What kinds of accounts do you follow?
What channels are you watching on YouTube?
Does this account make me feel empowered or jealous?
Do I feel energized and encouraged after seeing this content, or depleted and discouraged?
Why did I start following this account in the first place and does it align with my values today?
Spend some time reflecting on these questions and trust your awareness.
Another way to clean up your feed is even applying this gut check to who you’re friends with on Facebook and Instagram.
If you can’t unfriend someone due to family relationships or close friendships, mute their account by unfollowing their posts or stories. This is fairly simple.
To unfollow (not unfriend) on Facebook use this guide.
To do the same on Instagram use this guide.
“Rest assured: If you unfollow a friend, they aren’t alerted to your decision. You’ll still appear as friends on the service, you simply won’t see their content in your feed.” — Facebook
While it might feel impossible to closely monitor your child’s screen time, you can help her be more emotionally intelligent about what and whom she follows and why.
Communicate to your child to press unfollow on any accounts that leave them empty or uninspired.
Your task as a family (and as individuals) is to delete all accounts that don’t make you feel empowered, peaceful, hopeful, encouraged, or more educated and equipped in an area you feel passionate about.
Discussing this process with your child is powerful. It will allow you to validate important emotions and convey the importance of prioritizing their self-esteem.
You may even learn something about your child through this experience, for example, what they’re grappling with from body image to what they’re really interested in. This is a positive experience.
Once you’ve completed your social media cleanse, you will probably find you have a little more time on your hands since you won’t have as much to look at. Decide what activity you will do to replace that time so you don’t end up simply following more social media accounts and filling up your feed again.
What would replenish you or bring you joy when you’re away from your phone?
Help your child determine this as well. Would he like to play outside more, learn a new skill such as cooking or playing cards? Don’t replace screen time with another screen, like TV or video games. Choose something that will give your child’s eyes a break.
This might sound challenging to you and, well, it is a challenge, but parents, trust me. Cleaning out your social media feeds and channels, spending more quality time with one another or your hobbies—this can do nothing but improve your and your child’s moods, behaviors, and interactions.
It won’t be long before you’ll be choosing your alternate activity before your phone and your child will do the same.
Screen time can be an anxiety-inducing topic. Do what you can, clean out your feed, and fill it with positive and encouraging content. Use the spare time on your hands to step away from your phone and step into your parenting.