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Screen time: How to handle your children’s smartphone, tablet and video game…

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Screen time: How to handle your children's smartphone, tablet  and video game...

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TODAY's US consumer publisher Michelle Maltais and Common Sense Media executive editor Sierra Filucci share ways to manage your family's attachment to electronic and media devices.
USA TODAY

Shout time. This is what I called the drama that can result from imposing screen time limits on my children. And no, it's not just them who scream.

My husband and I had navigated the screen with our two children, Christopher, 7, and Gabrielle, 5, keeping binge watching and games at bay, focusing mainly on math or wordplay, chess and puzzle. heads.

That is, until we buy tablets for kids and add an Xbox One to the family living room on the last Thanksgiving. With the game console, many very engaging and (especially) age-appropriate games have emerged, and some heated encounters with kids who don't want to stop playing them.

Nowadays, emotions rise with children in the midst of the most important movement in their virtual worlds and me, a frustrated father trying to return my screen zombies in formation to the land of the living.

"Now that has made our lives so much harder," said Darcy Cobb of Los Angeles, whose 11 and 12-year-old Tate and Lachlan joined us at the USA TODAY Los Angeles office recently to talk to children. about the role that technology plays in their lives. .

More: The search & # 39; Fortnite & # 39; shows that children are playing in the classroom. So what can parents do?

More: Study: Limiting Children's Screen Time Improves Brain Function

New devices at home come with the need for rules of engagement – or the opportunity to revisit what your family has been doing with technology and media.

For my family, this means refining our approach to mom and she will replace her with something the kids understand and something that the parents are likely to support.

Christoper and Gabrielle watch video games on the big screen TV. (Photo: Jefferson Graham)

Parenting is a tough show

"Today's parents are very against it," said Richard Bromfield, clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School. "Bright technologies that literally hack children's brains to explore and turn their interest into absolute desire. A culture in which everyone uses screens so much. And of course, the folly of parents with their screens."

Studies show the negative effects of excessive use of screens and media at a young age. So far, we have all heard that excessive screen time may affect academic performance, attention, social interactions, and sleep potentially lead to obesity, among other negative effects.

"Recent research suggests it is affecting brain growth," Bromfield added. "And perhaps the scariest, it seems that previous screens come into your child's life, the deeper the negative effects."

As my two sons gravitate more to books, Legos, Hot Wheels, Barbies, and board games, the screen siren is getting louder, especially with the influence of their peers.

In other words, it's a "fortnite" worldeven if we are not a "Fortnite" family. Like the screens on which it is displayed, the popular game is everywhere and continues to grow its fan base and to infuse popular culture. Even kids who don't really know the game know all "Fortnite" dances and begin to contract the movements rhythmically.

Despite the concerns, the technology in our lives should not be completely demonized, Bromfield said: "Parents reasonably understand that technology is very wonderful, educational and healthy."

CLOSEScreen time: How to handle your children's smartphone, tablet  and video game...

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USA TODAY

So, for good, for bad, and for minimizing the ugly, my family is following the advice of pediatricians and child media advocates: we are setting more formal parameters for how our family uses media on screen.

In addition to using the tools of devices that support parental supervision, we are discussing in family how we should use screens and consume media.

Although you can use a template, the best idea is for your family to discuss together what should be in it. (Photo: Common Sense Media)

Make a written family contract

"It's a good place to start," said Sierra Filucci, executive editor of content for parents at Common Sense Media – herself the mother of a teenager. "It can be really useful to have a document that everyone can agree on … and even adjust to."

Common sense and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, offer a robust model for families to fill in to make their own.

As we work with ours, my family is talking about what works best for us. My husband and I imagine that the more our son and daughter have the floor, the more invested they will be in maintaining family rules.

Filucci agreed, "It's important to get kids involved in setting boundaries and figuring out what makes sense."

Getting a new tablet, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch on holidays can present the perfect opportunity to set or revise family rules.

We don't expect this to end all technological tantrums, but it gives us something to always point out – a concrete and consistent reference for parents and children.

If you are looking for a definitive answer to what the screen time rules should be, here it is: It depends on your family.

As the saying goes, different traits for different people. What your children can or should have access to will depend on your family's values, their ages and even perhaps their individual personalities. You may decide that it is necessary to have different rules for different children in your family. It has to suit your circumstances.

Points to consider when setting up a family media plan:

  • When and where devices can be used
  • What kind of content is acceptable. (Maybe this means setting a rule for R or PG-13 movies without parental approval)
  • What are the consequences if the rules are not followed

Lastly, the key to this exercise is not just presenting a lot of rules. It's also about having the conversation, not just once, but as an open and ongoing exchange about media and technology in general.

"We have very open dialogues in terms of consequences," said Jacyln Naidoo of Manhattan Beach, California. The consequences of her conversations with her 12-year-old daughter, Ella, are not just about breaking rules, but about real-world mistakes in social media. Your goal is to convey and model good citizenship and responsibility in your daughter's technological life.

"I think we parents need to go one step further …" she said. "I'm present. It starts at home."

Being present takes on a new urgency as these technologies become more infused into our lives. "Helping your child manage screens is … difficult," said Bromfield, whose book, "Getting Up to the Screen: A Plan for United Parents," comes out in January. "But consider the alternatives, the risk if you don't."

No matter how connected you are as a parent, technology is much more integrated into our daily lives than perhaps when we were growing up. Today, children's mistakes are often captured on video for the world to see.

"The generation above us … grandparents are constantly saying, oh God, parents today, you're helicopter parents, you're hovering," said Jennifer Keller, mother of Los Angeles. "I don't know if they really understand how much we have to hover."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Override times and zones without screen

Just because we can grab our devices and access all kinds of content almost anywhere doesn't mean we should.

"Make sure there is some kind of sacred space, or special space or moment, when you will devalue the screens and prioritize other things," said Filucci.

Dinner time is a good place to start. Studies have shown that adolescents who engage in mealtime media use are more prone to problems such as poor nutrition and communication skills.

Rooms are another place to consider for keeping technology free as devices are shown to disrupt sleep. And unless devices are needed to get the job done, it's a good idea to limit access to unrelated screens during homework.

A pediatrician I talked to a few years ago said that in her family they actually put their cell phones in a drawer when they walk home to focus on being more present at home than lost inside their phones. .

Some parents do more than wear devices at bedtime; they also install applications like OurPact to see what kids are really doing on these screens and manage their devices on their own.

Be the change to see the change

Our children see what their parents do, especially when it doesn't match what we say.

I remember my mother talking about the dangers of smoking – with a cigarette hanging from her lips. She absolutely meant his warning with every fiber of her being. She was too addicted to model the healthiest choice.

The same can be said for how parents use technology. My kids see me when I'm too focused on finishing posting to Facebook to take my eyes off the screen and just look at them while talking to me. And they call me.

If we adults are struggling with this – and we are – Filucci said, "Imagine what your child is facing with less developed self-control."

In creating our family media plan, our children express their thoughts on what the rules should be for mom and dad, not only for their involvement but also for a better sense of how they view our use.

"Knowing that your parents are open to having a conversation about this is more likely to bring that conversation to you," said Filucci.

While parents tend to be the voice in their children's heads, listening is essential, Filucci said.

"Keeping this conversation going, opening up and showing interest in your children's media and technology life is really important."

How are you dealing with technology in your home? Share your screen time strategies, tests and triumphs with me on Twitter …

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