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Parenting in the Age of Technology

Is it dangerous? How dangerous? How much is okay? What limits do I set?

Of course, I’m talking about navigating technology use as a parent/caregiver. Here is a list of resources you can use to decide what is right for your family and help you answer questions like:
  • Is my family addicted to technology? 
  • How can I better guide my children around the use of technology? 
  • How can I set limits?
  • How do I model better technology behavior? 

First, how do I know if there is a problem? 

Here is a quick inventory checklist from Stacy Jagger (a fellow SPTer!). How many of these questions do you answer "yes" to?
    1. Is your child’s behavior unmanageable? 
    2. Do you feel you cannot reach your child? 
    3. Does your child lose his temper or become angry  when you ask him to turn off the screen or game? 
    4. Does it seem your child is lost in space? In their  own world? Not living in reality? 
    5. Does it seem everyone in your home is doing their  own thing? Everyone in their own room on separate  screens? Or multiple screens at once? 
    6. Is it nearly impossible to get everyone around the  dinner table for a simple meal without screens all  around you? 
    7. Does your child seem overly anxious? Depressed? 
    8. Is your child having a difficult time sleeping or  getting good rest? 
    9. Does your child seem easily frightened? Easily  startled? 
    10. Is it difficult for you to get your children to want to  play outside? 
    11. Does your child seem isolated and you don’t know  why? 
    12. Does your child seem distracted and have a difficult  time prioritizing family time? 
    13. Is your family having a difficult time connecting?  
If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, Stacy (and we) would suggest considering reaching out for help to change course. Some solutions are offered below.

So, what are some guidelines we should follow?

What are the screen guidelines for littles? From the APA:
  • Under 18 months, avoid screen-based media except video chatting.
  • 18 to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children
  • 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming.
  • 6 to 9, establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media
And, while it is easy to get caught up in the time guidelines, the content they are watching is just as important. I found this gem of a website that reviews content for parents called Common Sense Media - more on this tool below. For kids 9-18 where we can’t always see what they are doing or monitor their habits. More tips from APA:
  • Communication, communication, communication. Most teenage kids (83%) have witnessed cyberbullying. Talk to your kids about digital interactions, encourage them to come to you if they see anything inappropriate or questionable online, have conversations with your child about how to evaluate authenticity and accuracy online. Explain why they shouldn’t download unfamiliar programs, click on suspicious links or share personal information on unknown apps or websites. Also teach your children not to respond to unsolicited messages from strangers — and to tell you if they get them.
  • Keep Up with the Trends. Do you research to understand the media your child is using, and check out your child’s browser history to see what sites they visit. Explore software to filter or restrict access to content that’s off-limits and use tools like the ones below.
  • Consider using a dependable monitoring tools or devices.
    • Gabb - a "Smartphone" without the Internet, Social Media, or Games. This phone still keeps your child connected to family and friends with text & voice capabilities, a camera, calculator and music. Learn more here: ​​
    • Bark - a software technology that monitors content, limits screen time and filters websites while building trust with your kiddos. Learn more here:

Setting up healthy boundaries: 

  • 1st, and most importantly, Modeling Healthy Technology Habits Yourself - I know I know... do as I say, not as I do, right? Not so much. We have to make sure that we are modeling the same kind of healthy behavior and putting limits on our own technology use as well. This will not only model the wanted behavior but allow us to empathize when our children struggle with a new limit or rule placed around technology. Are you on your computer all day, everyday? Yes, even if its your job, we have to be more accountable regarding our own habits and behaviors.
  • The Parking Lot - I love the "parking lot" idea - where a family puts all their phones in a certain area during designated times like dinner and/or after dinner. Parents also need to follow this rule!
  • Adding Regulation Tools to Screen time - Add regulation exercises (like sitting on a yoga ball or setting a timer and when the timer goes off, doing jumping jacks or wall squats) to your child's designated screen time to get their bodies moving and to practice regulation activities during "off" time
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t mention parent coaching here - This is an underused and incredibly effective tool to affect change within the entire family system. Because you are with your kids the most, parent coaching affects change from within. Learn more about it here.
  • Play Therapy - if you notice your children using technology as a “numbing” tool or to avoid challenging emotions, contact us to see if play therapy could be a good solution to teach your children other tools and ways to regulate their system. Learn more about the benefits of play therapy here.
  • Consider a Technology Detox - we would recommend reading the book and following the program, “30 Day Blackout” by Stacy Jagger. You can see the program here or purchase the book on Amazon here.
  • Common Sense Media - a service that offers reviews and guidance on movies, video games, apps, and more ($3/month after the first 3 reviews):
  • Family Online Safety Institute - a nonprofit that offers guidance to parents around technology as well as advocating for safety around online policy. Learn more here: 
While this doesn’t begin to cover everything there is to know about parenting and technology, we hope this gives you a place to start and some tools to help you navigate being a parent in 2023.

Sending you all our love, 

Sharlyn Francis & The Play Therapy Connection Team