Parents, Check Your Digital Media Use

A recent paper reports parents check their phones an average of 70 times a day and consistently underestimate just how often we do it. We often hear about the dangers of screen time and the effects on our children, but we rarely take a look at how parental phone use affects their children. After all, we are the role models and we need to practice what we so often preach.

Recently, NPR came up with a list of ways parents can be better role models for their children when it comes to digital media and become overall more mindful parents.

1. Put your phone away whenever possible when you’re with your kids.
Try leaving your phone in the charger during the morning and evening routine, turn off notifications, and tell your kids what you’re doing when you do pick up your phone.

2. If you want calmer children, be a more focused parent.
Research by Dr. Jenny Radesky suggests that we are especially likely to turn to digital distractions in stressful moments with our children. Resist the temptation. Paying attention to our kids’ state of mind will help us respond more appropriately, and that leads to children with better emotional self-regulation in the long run.

3. Before you post a picture or share a cute story about your kids on social media, think twice and get their permission if possible.
Too much “sharenting” (overuse of social media by parents) can expose our kids to hackers, spammers and creeps. Guard their personal information and be aware of what could be embarrassing. When you ask for kids’ permission on what to share, starting in kindergarten, you model respectful and appropriate behavior online — and with luck, they will grow up to follow your example.

4. Don’t use technology to stalk your children. It’s tempting to physically track your kids, read their messages and text them all day long. Instead, let your kids know you will trust them and check in only if there’s a real red flag. Your confidence will help them make better decisions and feel safer opening up if they do run into trouble.

5. Work for healthier technology for your kids and for all of us.
Building a healthier digital environment is bigger than what any individual family can do. It takes all of us together. Official efforts in the U.S. and UK are underway to introduce design guidelines so kids are safer online without running into ads, surveillance, or other bad actors.

Project B3 thinks this is a great list, overall. But we especially appreciate the suggestion of putting your phone away when you are around your children. It sounds so simple! But habits form quickly and it truly seems like everyone is on their phone all the time now. What our children crave most from us is attention. They want us to look at them, they want us to hear them, and they want us to be present. We simply cannot give them what we they need if we are staring down at our phones. Emails, texts, Twitter, and phone calls can wait. Your child can’t.