Limit Children’s Screen Time, Experts Tell Parents

Film Explains Hazards of Online Addiction

Dave Korte and his son, Kyle wait for the start of “Screenagers”

Dave Korte says he and his wife, Angela, try to be very deliberate about the rules they have regarding screen time for their children, Kyle, 14, and Eva, 13.

“They know having a phone is privilege, who is paying the bill and that it’s our right to take them away,” Korte said.

Overall, he said, their system of limiting screen time is working and Kyle and Eva take it in stride. But he was curious what a film on the issue would have to say. So the family was part of a sold-out crowd last week at Celebration! Cinema for a viewing of “Screenagers,”created by a physician and mom who wanted to know how technology impacts young people’s development.

“We want to learn more about some of the things we intuitively think we know” about limiting screen time, Korte said, “and we want the kids to hear from someone other than Mom and Dad why our rules are a good idea.”

The film documents the challenges of parenting in the digital world, and offers some ways adults can empower kids to best find balance.

Information included in the film:

  • Sixty-eight percent of U.S. children start high school owning a cell phone.
  • Teenage boys spend, on average, approximately 11.5 hours a week playing video games, and video-game addiction affects the brain in similar ways as substance abuse and gambling. Conversely, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids spend no more than 2 hours online a day outside school.
  • Too much screen time negatively affects the prefrontal cortex, which regulates impulse control. Kids with strong impulse control do better in school.
  • Eye contact is crucial in developing empathy.
  • Forty percent of U.S. teenagers are not involved in after-school activities, which have been shown to improve grades and relationships.
  • Overstimulation tires the teenage brain, brings on poor performance and compromises the ability to learn new things.

Don’t be Afraid to Set Rules  

Both the film and the last week’s event included brain development experts. Neuropsychologist Dr. Michael Wolff, and David Jangda, a psychologist with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services who serves as the district’s liaison for behavioral health, answered questions after the showing.

Among the advice for adults:

  • Do place boundaries on screen time, but explain your limits beyond “because I said so.”
  • Model limits with your own behavior.
  • Consider adding app-locking software that makes it impossible for kids to use certain apps at set times, or apps that report to you where your children spend their time online — and how much time.

And try to stay involved in monitoring your kids’ online activities, Wolff said. “Let’s face it, our kids are more savvy with technology than we are. But we can’t be afraid of setting rules, of taking control.”

About five years ago, the district created a team of volunteers known as AAA, dedicated to awareness, acceptance and advocacy of mental health. They are charged with working with school counselors and health-care specialists throughout the area to eliminate the stigma surrounding families’ needs around mental illness, and educate families on topics affecting youth today.

Every year, the AAA team puts together a speaker series, called “Our Kids’ Well-Being.” Two more events around kids and technology are scheduled.

CONNECT

Screenagers Trailer

FHPS Well-being Speakers Series Information

Parents Lead Effort to Promote Mental Health Awareness

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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