We live in a world dominated by screens and technological gadgets. If there’s one thing the modern parent of tweens and teens should worry about in this digital age, then it’s the amount of time their kids spend glued to a screen.
Whether it’s the screen of their smartphone, tablet or gaming console, according to a study conducted by Common Sense Media, teens spend about nine hours each day on devices or other screens, and tweens, or children aged between 8 and 12, spend about six hours on average consuming media.
Though many parents express their concerns about their kids’ relationship to technology – which keeps them from physical exercise or may turn them into screen addicts or couch potatoes – the vast majority also see themselves as role models of good behavior for their children.
Most parents are as guilty as their kids
When it comes to screen addiction, the parents who complain about the role of screens in family life are often just as guilty of spending too much time in front of the screen. According to a new survey sponsored by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that helps parents, educators and children negotiate media and technology, parents of tweens and teens spend, on average, more than nine hours a day on screens, which is exactly the same as their tech-obsessed kids. Of those nine hours of screen time, more than 80 percent is for non-work related reasons.
Nonetheless, 78 percent of parents that participated in the study felt that they were good role models for their children when it comes to media and technology. Over 1,700 parents of children aged 8 to 18 participated in the study, making this the first ever survey to put the spotlight on parents to understand how they manage their own and their kids’ media use.
Basically, as parents we’re spending a massive chunk of our day doing exactly what we’re telling our kids not to do. Michael Robb, director of research for Common Sense Media, noted that there’s a tension there. Parents who think they are good role models, worrying about their children’s daily screen use, spend plenty of time on screens themselves.
Faced with this modern problem, the challenge for parents will be finding the right balance of screen time, not only for their children, but for themselves, as well.
Impact of screen time on health
At times, desperate parents may temper their screaming toddler with a video or game on their smartphone. However, this shushing action happens more than one may realize, making our kids screen-obsessed from a very young age.
This sedentary behavior can have severe adverse effects on our health and that of our children. As reported by Mother Nature Network, screen time has been linked to obesity, sleep loss, impaired hand function, thumb pain, repetitive strain injuries and headaches. Furthermore, screen time also affects our mental health. It may create obsessive behavior, attention disorders or negatively influence a child’s opinion about things like junk food, alcohol, tobacco or aggressive behavior.
Of the parents surveyed, 56 percent were concerned that their children could become addicted to the internet, 34 percent worried that screen use negatively impacts sleep and 38 percent were concerned about the over-sharing of personal details.
“Even for parents who hate technology, it’s there. It’s at the supermarket. It’s at McDonalds,” said Janeane Davis, founder of the blog Janeane’s World, and mother of four in suburban Philadelphia. “So you have to teach your children how to use it. You can’t make them afraid of it or make it some deep, mysterious thing.”