Yesterday, our kids were dressing up in princess costumes and tracking mud into the house. Today, they’re standing in front of mirrors taking selfies or spending hours in darkened rooms playing video games. They’re lost in an adult virtual world. As a result, kids have become more stressed, anxious and depressed and experts agree that we are in the midst of a teen mental health crisis.
How did we get here?
The persuasive design elements of screen entertainment have made it nearly impossible for children to put down their devices, let alone limit their use. Big tech has outsmarted parents, too, convincing them that these leisure activities are necessary for modern life. They’re not.
Parents are caught in the middle of a societal dilemma. We don’t want our kids to be seen as outsiders because they don’t have the latest gadgets, yet we have a responsibility to protect them from their devices. Exhausted parents are giving in. Feeling powerless, they hand over games and phones to their kids without knowing they have a choice.
Education is the first step.
Like a smart coach, parents must step back, evaluate the situation and create a new game plan. It all begins with education.
Armed with the science behind healthy brain development found in the ScreenStrong Lifestyle courses, you will see that video games and social media are not necessary for a healthy childhood. In fact, they often displace the very activities that are essential, like sleep, exercise, face-to-face social interactions and imaginary play. These highly addictive screen activities are not worth the risk for tweens and teens. Even though our screen-obsessed culture tells us our kids need more tech, we don’t have to go along with the crowd.
A New Lifestyle
Imagine never arguing about screens in your home. Imagine a calm, family-centered life where your kids grow up with stable attachments to friends and family. The ScreenStrong Lifestyle is about keeping the benefits of technology while delaying the harmful effects of toxic screens. Practically speaking, this means using screens as tools, not as a toy, and hitting the pause button on your children’s use of video games and social media throughout adolescence. It is much easier than you think.
It’s OK to say no.
The first step in freeing your child from screen dependency is to understand that saying no to potentially toxic screen use like social media and video games is a great option, grounded in the science of addiction. This lifestyle change does not mean removing all screens from your home. Rather it is about removing the addictive video games and small screens (smartphones) in your children’s pockets that trap them and get them into trouble. Just as addicts must remove access to their drugs of choice to overcome their addictions, removing access to problematic screens works.
Parents who choose this lifestyle are surprised at how easy it is! ScreenStrong tweens and teens grow up with so many advantages: less stress, less exposure to toxic content, less anxiety, less fear, and less depression. They are happier and have better quality friendships, and they become more confident as they stand out from the crowd. Since screens don’t dominate their lives and their time, space exists again to master new hobbies and learn the life skills they’ll need to develop into healthy, happy adults.
I’m in! What’s the next step?
If you’re ready to set some serious screen time boundaries in your home, taking the ScreenStrong Lifestyle course is a great next step. In this course, you’ll learn the basic science behind screen time and kids as well as solutions to remove screen conflict from your home
We do not have to be victims of screen culture. When parents get educated, reclaim their leadership role and choose the countercultural path, they can win the screen battle at home and get their kids back. It’s time to stand out from the crowd, stand up for your kids and be screen strong!
Melanie Hempe, BSN, is the founder of ScreenStrong an organization that empowers parents to keep the benefits of screen media for kids while empowering parents to say no to screens that can be toxic like video games and smartphones. The ScreenStrong Solution promotes a strong parenting style that proactively replaces harmful screen use with healthy activities, life skill development, and family connection. Learn more at screenstrong.com.