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Beyond Screen Time Limits

Get insights, tips and ideas straight from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi Rhine

Don't Use Screen Time as a Reward or Punishment - Do This Instead

Jul 09, 2020

 “If you clean your room, you can play an extra half hour of your game”

“You hit your sister.  I’m taking away your iPad for the night.”

“You can get a phone when you get an A in math..”

As parents, we all are tempted to use screen time as a reward or punishment. Why? Because it works! But a recent study found that using screen time this way can actually make children want more screen time, and can make tech use harder to manage in the long term.  

Let's take a look at the 3 common effects of using screen time to reward and punish non-screen related behaviors:

You make your child want their screen more. A reward by nature is something to want. So when you offer screen time in this way, you communicate that screen time is something to covet. Because most apps and device-use cause dopamine to be released in the brain, they are highly addictive and we don’t need to further elevate their status in the minds of our children. 

You ‘muddy the waters’ on a high-risk topic. What does screen time have to do with getting along with siblings or finishing math? Nothing. It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t teach anything. At the end of rewarding and punishing in this way, your child still knows very little about how to use technology in healthy ways or what role screen time plays in a healthy lifestyle. Given the risks inherent in internet use and screen time addiction, we can’t afford to be so confusing.

You create more screen time struggles over time. You may get your child to behave short term, but soon your child will constantly bargain for screen time. “But I cleaned my room! Why can’t I play my game now?” “If I help my sister with her homework, can I watch an extra Netflix show?” This will drive you nuts. You will pull out your hair trying to think of some system that makes sense and some message about screen time that is consistent. 

Instead, let’s talk about an approach that works. Screen time should be given and taken away according to one factor, and one factor only: how skillfully your child uses their devices. Give more screen time, or more independence when your child uses devices responsibly and in balance with other life activities. Take away screen time when your child uses their device unsafely, dishonestly, or without balance.  Period.  End of story.  

When we leverage screen time in this way, we...

Keep our children safe. Tech use limits are in place to keep our children safe - safe from addictive patterns of usage, and age-inappropriate content. - while they learn to use devices wisely. When we increase access (only) when kids demonstrate wise usage, we avoid letting them get in over their heads.  Their behavior communicates what they are ready for, and we dole out tech use accordingly.

Communicate the seriousness of tech use.  With this approach, our tech limits are meaningful. They are in place to keep our kids safe, and so they are removed (slowly) as our kids learn to keep themselves safe. Think Driver’s Ed.  We wouldn’t give the keys to the car because our child got an A in math.  We give keys to the car based on competency. Let’s treat screen time with the same level of caution. 

Rely on natural consequences that make sense to kids.  Your child will understand the logic behind losing screen time for unbalanced or unsafe tech behavior and getting more screen time privileges when they use it wisely.  The system is coherent and clear.  Your child may not always like it, but they are more likely to comply with this kind of system than an arbitrary one.  

Motivate our children to learn healthy tech skills. When your child truly understands that their screen time depends on their ability to use it appropriately, they become open to learning how.  This allows you to mentor them in healthy tech use. They will begin to try to log off when their time is up, to put their phones away at dinner time, to get their homework done without the distraction of games or messages.  Your screen time plan keeps them moving in the right direction.

Reduce conflict with a clear path to independent tech use. Because their brains are still developing, children cannot limit their own screen time or pick age-appropriate content.  However, we want them to be able to do both by late adolescence when they leave our homes. With this approach, we incrementally allow them to make their own choices as they demonstrate the ability to make wise ones. This process takes years, but parents and children unite (rather than fight) because the path is clear.

So stop using tech as a reward or punishment for other behavior and start to set your screen time plan up for success. If you’re wondering what this approach looks like in action, stay tuned for the blog next week when I get into the topic of how to handle it when your child sneaks in screen time.

Sign up for our newsletter (click the 'sign up' button on this page) to get healthy screen time insights and tips from clinical psychologist, Dr. Demi.  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

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8 Things Every Child Needs to Know About Screen Time Before They Leave Home

Jul 01, 2020

What does “kids using technology in healthy ways” look like? The tech we use today is so new that even this has not been clearly defined, leaving parents feeling lost in this area of home life. Why? Because parents need something to aim for - a vision of the future.

Parenting around screen time begins with a clear vision that can guide decisions and interventions. So, let's start by laying out the vision of how we want our children to leave our home interacting with their devices. 

By the time our children leave our homes, we want them to:

  1. Hack The Hook
    Our kids understand that their device is designed to hook their attention – they know how to hack the hook. Instead of complying with the device’s never-ending demand for attention, our children are empowered to stay in charge. 
  2. Use Technology on Purpose
    Our kids can intentionally choose to be on and off, rather than reaching for it in every free moment or staying on mindlessly. We want them to enjoy their screen time, not lose hours of their daily lives down tech rabbit holes.
  3. Be Comfortable Offline
    We want them to be comfortable missing out on whatever is happening online - a chat, a game, etc. They are able to hang out with friends or go on a date and connect, without being distracted by FOMO-O (fear of missing out online).
  4. Balance Their Online and Offline Lives
    We want our children to enjoy the benefits of technology while maintaining a life full of other amazing experiences too. This means they can make the necessary adjustments when they notice tech encroaching into other areas of their lives. They should use technology for enjoyment, to get things done, to create the changes they want to see in our world, while also having a life full of offline relationships, activities, and adventures.  
  5. Face Difficult Feelings Instead of Use Technology To Numb
    We want our kids to tolerate life’s painful moments, comfort themselves with activities that are not addictive or numbing, then return to solve their problems. We want them to handle a breakup, a death in the family, a failure - and learn the lessons, gain the fortitude, and grow from the experience.  
  6. Avoid Content That Affects Them Negatively
    We would like to see that while our children are using their devices, they maintain awareness of their well-being. They get off when it is no longer fun and starting to cause emotional or physical pain (even if their friends are still on). We want to hear them say “I was on social, but I started to feel left out so I got off.” 
  7. Use The Internet to Benefit Others’ Lives
    Our children need to be thoroughly aware that the Internet is not private, whatsoever. They deeply understand that although they cannot see the impact of what they post online, the words are read by someone real, with real feelings. We want our children to show leadership and stand for kindness online just as they would in their offline lives.  

  8. Use Skepticism and Discernment When Online
    Today’s children need to be equipped with an understanding that anyone can create anything online, and do so often for personal reasons and with ulterior motives. They don’t take the online world at face value and take into account the source of the information they're consuming. They don’t fall for hateful posts, marketing ploys, algorithms that put them in an information bubble, curated social media presentations, and have some ability to decipher fake from real news.

This is a big vision and a big job for parents. Given the pitfalls of the online world, we have to actively guide our children in this direction. The stakes are too high to not strive for this vision. So let’s hold onto it and unite as parents to learn what it takes to prepare our children for a life of wise tech use. 

Sign up for our newsletter to get healthy screen time insights and tips from Dr. Demi (clinical psychologist).  

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear roadmap that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Join the movement here.

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It's Not Your Child's Fault That They Can't Put Down Their Device

Jun 24, 2020

If your child is anything like mine, they gravitate to a screen like a moth to a flame. They click and scroll, watch and play, oblivious to everyone and everything. It evokes frustration, fear, and fury, and can lead to argument after argument.  

Your child’s difficulty logging off is not their fault. And it’s not your fault either. Tech developers have capitalized on hard-wired aspects of the human brain to create platforms that are as addictive as possible. The human brain loves stimuli that create rewarding experiences. Each time the brain experiences something pleasurable, it releases a tiny shot of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces a pleasant, satisfying feeling. Then the brain craves the next experience that provides another shot of dopamine. When these rewarding moments come at unpredictable intervals, the brain is chronically left wanting more. 

All media platforms have been created with this in mind. First, something calls your attention (a vibrating phone, an intriguing headline). When you click, you begin to seek a rewarding experience - connecting to others (texting, social media), social approval (likes), acquiring assets (online shopping, news, recipes), accomplishments (winning games), entertainment/relaxation (YouTube, Netflix), etc. These experiences happen at unpredictable times, which leaves you clicking the next link, playing the next level, and checking the next text. This is how our children get hooked. This is how we get hooked. Everyone is hooked not because we are weak or inept, but because we have human brains. And because the developers are really good at what they do! 

Understanding the brain science behind screen time can begin to transform your relationship with your child in this area of home life. Generally, when we see our kids unable to put down the screens, we angrily pull the devices away or lecture them about the evils of tech. We approach the problem as if it’s only our kids who get hooked. This inadvertently communicates that we think they are too weak to fight the addictive nature of their devices and that we, as adults, do not suffer from the same malady. But our children see the truth - that we too are hooked. We may try to hide it, but they know that we can’t stop either. This discrepancy builds resentment, lack of trust and plays a critical role in screen time conflict in the home.

Instead, when we acknowledge we are all hooked, our children begin to trust us, which paves the way for us to help them manage their tech use. If we explain how the device is designed to interact with our brain to create an addictive pattern, we can all stop judging and start dealing with the real problem - how to unhook so that devices enhance our lives rather than control them. With this approach, we unite with rather than fight with our children. We can laugh about how we are all moths drawn to the flame with our screens, and then work together to learn how to navigate this tricky aspect of modern life.  

So, the next time you see your child gripping their iPad as if their life depended on it, remember it is not their fault and they are not alone. Share with them a similar experience you have had. Then, discuss how the platform design has left them wanting more of some enticing variable reward. Together you can begin the critical exploration of how we can enjoy our screens without being controlled by them.  

Sign up for our weekly newsletter where Dr. Demi (Clinical Psychologist) shows you how to solve screen time problems in your home. 

 

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear road map that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option. . . it's a necessity. Get started.

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“Mom, I’m done with screen time. I’m going outside.” It's Possible.

Jun 18, 2020

Parents were feeling anxious about their children’s screen time before COVID, but now this anxiety has spiked as screen time feels out of control. Before COVID, it was challenging, but possible, to limit children’s access to devices. But now, with schooling, socializing and activities all streaming online, parents are at a loss as to what to do. Why are we feeling so much anxiety over screen time to begin with?  What can we do now that children’s usage has ramped up? 

Studies have shown that too much screen time (and/or the wrong content) can have a negative impact on children. As a result, we have relied on trying to keep tech usage within a satisfactory range to protect our children. We are anxious because we have been looking for the magic number - the “right” amount of screen time, the “right” type of screen time - to keep our children healthy.  

The concept of this “right” screen time is even more confusing during the COVID era.  This is making parents even more anxious, as we feel lost and without a playbook. But, we have been looking at this the wrong way. Most screen time approaches focus solely on finding the right tech use limits. Limiting tech use is an important part of any screen time plan, but it is only one part. We have to move beyond just limits.

When we set screen time limits, we take the devices away rather than teaching our kids to do this themselves. Screen time limits do not teach our kids how to use technology wisely - how to notice the effects of tech on their mood, how to log off despite urges to continue, how to maintain a balance between online and offline lives, etc. 

When you learned to drive a car, was there a plan, method, or process that ensured you weren’t going to plow into a mailbox or speed into oncoming traffic? Of course there was. No one handed you the keys and expected you to figure out how to drive safely. Someone trained you, first by slowly and methodically teaching the skill sets. Then they closely monitored you while you practiced - beginning in parking lots, then side streets, larger thoroughfares, and finally on the freeway. A driver’s license was granted upon demonstration of competency and safety. 

We need to take the same approach to screen time - one that emphasizes training from a young age, and monitors the development of tech use skills. Let’s do Driver’s Ed for smartphones. 

What does that mean? To start, it requires that parents shift their mindset. Begin to play around with the idea of training your child to use their devices wisely. Let’s help our kids understand why it’s so hard to turn off their screen and share with them strategies we have developed for logging off when we are tempted to stay on. Let’s teach our kids how to notice the effects of tech on their mood, and how to find the willingness to take care of themselves by keeping tech use in balance with other aspects of their lives. Let’s show our children how, by learning these concepts and strategies, tech can enhance their lives -rather than control them. 

Clinical Psychologist

 

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear road map that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.
End the constant screen time battles.  Get started here.

Continue Reading...

Why Your Child Doesn’t Listen to You When it Comes to Screen Time

Jun 12, 2020

Thank goodness for technology! 

So often with our children, we focus on the negatives of tech use, trying to make them understand all of the dangers and pitfalls. And there are negatives, no denying it, but that is only part of the equation.

To have an honest conversation about tech, we have to acknowledge the positives too. To be respected and credible mentors to our children in the area of technology use, we have to notice and celebrate what youth and their devices bring into this world.  

Now is the perfect time to do this. The world is standing up for equality, and young people and their smartphones are making it happen. 

For generations, African-Americans have been killed in darkness, with only those complicit or silenced watching. Now, because of a young woman with a phone, the world sees what happened to George Floyd (and so many others). Because of the smartphone, the deep roots of racism are seen on camera, making it harder to forget, ignore, or pretend.  

While we often dismiss young people’s interest in social media as shallow, it is because of social media that the world can connect and demand change. Youth are leading the current protests in countries around the world, communicating by Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. The power of social media is turning their voices into movements that cross all borders.  

My 19-year-old nephew texted a friend with an idea to organize a protest in Oakland. For five days they sent out Insta posts, tweets, organized via Zoom calls - and 15,000 masked people emerged quietly from self-isolation to make their voices heard. These protests, with young people at the helm, are being organized in a worldwide quarantine, and they will change the trajectory of racism in our world. How? The smartphone.

Our children don’t need us to judge their tech use. The youth do not need us to take away their devices. They need us to show them how to avoid the pitfalls and tricky aspects of tech use so that they can harness the power that is placed into their hands with a smartphone and use it to enhance their lives and improve the world.   

Begin by talking to your child about the benefits of technology - smartphones, social media, all of it. Take a tech positive stance. If you are talking to them about the protests occurring right now, show them how technology is making this moment possible. Ask them to show you what they love on their smartphone, or what they have re-posted on their Insta account. Connect over tech use - this way they will actually listen to you when you talk about your screen time concerns. Tell them that while devices have pitfalls that you must prepare them for, the technology contained in their smartphone can be used in unfathomable ways and that you want them to enjoy and harness this power for good.  

This world is quickly changing. Our children will face global, existential challenges in their lifetime that we cannot yet imagine. They will need to communicate, organize, entertain, and educate - as a global community. Teaching your child to use their smartphone wisely could be the most important thing you ever do for their future.

Clinical Psychologist

 

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear road map that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Get started here.

Continue Reading...

Put Screen Time Struggles Behind You Once and For All

Jun 04, 2020
 

Maybe you’ve told your kid a dozen times to put the iPad down. Maybe you have gotten into arguments with your child over screen time. Maybe you watch your kid gaming or texting and fear ‘losing them’ to the screen. Maybe your kid has been caught sneaking their phone in the middle of the night. Maybe…

As a clinical psychologist, my colleagues and I have seen all of these scenarios and more. These situations are complicated, nuanced, and insidious. Parenting methods of the past are not solving the problems that technology-use presents to today’s families. This is because technology is designed to engage us based on the fundamentals of our physiology, and so healthy tech use requires a specific skill set that parents are neither familiar with nor prepared to teach their children.  

However, the field of psychology offers a wealth of strategies and techniques to teach and foster self-regulation that can be applied to the area of technology use. We have successfully used these practices with many families - bringing them back together and guiding children to wise, balanced, self-regulated technology use. I co-founded Beyond Limits Academy to make these techniques as accessible as possible.

A healthy relationship with technology is critical for life in the 21st century.  Equipping your children with these skills may seem daunting, but it is actually quite doable. Beyond Limits Academy is here to show you how and to support you along the way. 

Clinical Psychologist

 

About Beyond Limits Academy

Beyond Limits is a simple step-by-step online program that teaches parents how to prepare their children for a lifetime of safe and healthy technology use. Going beyond just screen time limits, our skills-based approach provides a clear road map that reduces conflict and sets children up to manage their own tech use independently and responsibly. In an increasingly digital world, preparing our children to use technology wisely is no longer an option . . . it's a necessity.


End the constant screen time battles.  Get started here.

Continue Reading...
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