It’s the most wonderful time of year! That means our kids are on school vacation and will have lots of down time to use their tech devices. What’s a parent to do? How do we keep our children “in the moment” during holiday family gatherings?

As much as we wish we could, we can’t completely shield our kids from their screens. Yet, we often worry about what boundaries to put on our children’s tech use and wonder if excessive screen time can negatively affect them? 

Here’s some good news that should alleviate our concerns: A recent study found that in more than 350,000 adolescents, technology use was associated with only 0.4% of the overall differences in adolescent mental well-being.

Three Skills To Teach Your Kids To Be “Screen Smart”
Most successful parents don’t spend time worrying about how much time their kids spend on digital devices. Instead, they teach these three skills to help their kids become screen smart:

1. How to evaluate media
Research and explore apps, games, and websites with your children. Read the user agreements and reviews together, and share any values and concerns you have with each other.

If an app or website looks like a scam, or it teaches bad values, discuss why you feel that way and how that would influence your decision to spend time on it. These conversations will educate your kids on what responsible media use looks like.

2. How to draw screen boundaries
If you feel you have too little control over your kids’ screen use, or you want to establish some rules and expectations, consider sitting down for a family meeting to create a digital road map.

You can come up with guidelines that create a balance, teach your kids how to use their screens constructively, and help avoid some of the unhealthy effects that can crop up.

You might want to discuss things like:
To minimize sleep loss: Will you have a “media curfew” after which all portable devices have to be stored in a central location?

To minimize safety concerns: Where will kids be allowed to use their devices? Will parental locks be installed on them?

To minimize fights: Will your kids need to ask you permission before they use screens?

Allow your children to include their input and share how your technology use will fit into the roadmap, too.

3. How to use screens for good
Teach your kids that screens and technology are not categorically “bad” influences. They can be tools for connection, learning, and growth, too.

Screens are tools and like any tool, they can be helpful or harmful depending on how they are used. Our goal as parents should be to help kids learn to use them in healthy and constructive ways.

Moyer, M. W. (2022, November 27). Parents of successful kids don’t worry about screen time, expert says—they teach these 3 skills instead. CNBC.