Last week, Jane Brody‘s NY Times article “Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children” struck a nerve, going viral while generating nearly 700 comments from readers. This week, she tackles parents’ role in children’s use of electronics: “How to Cut Children’s Screen Time? Say No to Yourself First.”
As an integrative child psychiatrist who looks at lifestyle factors to optimize treatment and minimize the need for , I've long been observing the negative effects of electronic that Ms. Brody notes in her articles. In fact, I find that addressing screen-time provides more robust benefits than any other intervention, so I focus on that heavily. I've been prescribing strict several week-long "electronic fasts" for about 15 years now, and it's often the missing link in successful treatment.
The problem is, screens and become a vicious cycle: Bad behavior in a child prompts exhausted parents to "escape" with devices, which leads to reduced interaction and more electronic babysitting, which leads to overstimulation and more bad behavior, and so on. Because of this, it's extremely difficult to get parents to cut back or follow strict rules themselves—especially if that parent is out.
Over the years, I’ve found there are several factors that facilitate screen for both parent and child:
Parenting and screen-time is a tough issue, and it takes time to digest the information, work through emotional and logistical resistance to solutions, and build adequate support. I've written Reset Your Child's Brain to provide a ready-made source of help, which includes the above elements as well as a guide for how to manage screens based on a child's individual developmental and mental health needs rather than vague guidelines.
Every child is different, but by knowing what to look for, parents can learn to figure out each child's screen tolerance and adjust accordingly. Once the parent sees positive changes and has a renewed sense of relationship with the child, they’ll be in a better place to start working on their own device use.
For more practical help on how to keep everyone—including parents—accountable regarding screen-time rules, see chapters 5 and 10 of Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Time.