Best ways to keep your child from spending too much time with their screen

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Is your child spending too much time on their smart phone, iPod, tablet, or video games?  If so, they’re not alone.  Research shows teenagers spend on average 6 ½ hours per day staring at screens and that doesn’t include time in school.

Dr. Delaney Rustin, a Stanford-trained physician and mother of two, recently produced a documentary, “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age”.  The film delves into her own family dilemma of whether to get her teenage daughter a smartphone.  We held a viewing of the movie at FOX 17 with a local group of teenagers, parents and teachers to get a feel for their biggest concerns with this topic.

Research in the film shows that our kids’ addiction to their screens can be blamed, at-least partly, on dopamine released in the center of their brain.  It showed the addiction is similar to addictions with food, alcohol and illicit drugs and video games have shown to be particularly rewarding to the brain, especially in the early teenage years.

Dr. Rustin found the single best way to help control your teen’s addiction to their screen is to develop self-control, and the best way to do that, is through defined goals.  Rustin said, “I always thought self-control was an innate skill.  When we define goals, like not (using screens) at the dinner table, and we talk about why, then they’ll start to implement that self-control,  particularly if we give them rewards.   And that’s something I wasn’t doing at all, I was just getting mad and taking it away.”

Another way to help is through a family contract that explains when and how much screen time should be allowed.  Dr. Ruston says getting your teen’s input with the contract is crucial in making it work.

“What really showed to work over time was starting to have frequent conversations every Tuesday. We call it Tech Talk Tuesday, where rather than the heat of the moment,  we’re sitting down and being mindful of how is technology working in our lives, in the positive.  And when we have these conversations, the defensiveness goes way down in both my teenagers,” said Dr. Rustin.



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  • Chuck

    Best way to keep your kid from spending too much time in front of a screen: Make them stop. Take it away from them. Be an actual parent instead of their adult buddy. Teach them discipline and then self-discipline. If you don’t know what that is or how to do that, blame your own parents and go find someone to teach you so that you can teach your kids how to act like responsible adults who are *productive* members of society instead of growing up to be a drain on it.

      • Shawn Heydenburg

        No parents need to stop shifting the blame its not the electronics its what they do with them. Video games are great for challenging a growing mind, problem solving, and out of the box strategy Have them play things like RPGs MMORPG’s (They increased my reading abilities more than school did) not 3rd person shooters. TV watch things like Mythbusters, shows based on science and history, how things work or cutting edge technology. My 9 year old knows things about particle physics, nuclear physics and quantum mechanics, Learned about Newton’s laws of motion && thermodynamics, electric currents and wiring diagrams. RaspberryPi starter kits and you can build remote control cars, robots and mini-drones. Its not how much time they spend on it, its what they do with it…