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Beyond Screen Time Limits

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

Using Screens to Numb Feelings

Aug 20, 2020

As a mom, I'm very aware of how stressful these times are for parents. We are juggling an impossible amount as we continue to make our way through this pandemic.  As school re-starts, I am also aware of how hard this time is on our children.

Many of our children are wondering if life will ever be the same. They miss their friends.  They worry about how they will learn without their teachers by their side. They are fearful of getting sick or that vulnerable loved ones may fall ill. They don’t want to be taught math by their stressed-out parents. This is part of the reason why so many of them are begging for more screen time.

So many children and adults turn to screens to numb out and avoid emotional discomfort. We feel awkward at a social event and reflexively reach for our phones. We feel lonely and suddenly find ourselves binge-watching a Netflix series. Screens provide endless distraction and as a result, give us relief from painful emotions. This is part of what makes screen time so addictive. 

However, this is a dangerous habit and one we do not want to encourage in our children. First of all, after being suppressed and pushed away, emotions can come back more powerful. This is the cause of some post-screen time tantrums. Second, our feelings are important messengers that tell us about our needs and wants, alert us to when something is wrong or not working for us, and keep us connected to our deeper selves. When we numb with screens (or anything else) we risk becoming disconnected from these internal signposts. Life becomes harder to manage. Relationships will be more confusing. It is harder to confront and overcome challenges. We don’t want this for our children.

Instead, let’s teach our children how to tolerate emotional discomfort, to understand their feelings, and listen to the information feelings communicate. We want to help them develop a healthy repertoire of strategies to soothe themselves in painful times, a repertoire that does not include potentially addictive activities such as screen time.  

So what does this look like in daily life?

Recognize the Pattern

Notice if your child tends to turn to their screens when they are upset. Last year my 8-year-old began to beg for the iPad after school. Then I learned that she was having difficulties with her friends at school. When I asked her about this, she said “Of course I want to watch a show! Then I can pretend everything is fine and not think about my stupid friends.”  Ding ding! A mother from my screen time workshop noticed her shy 12-year-old daughter picked up her cell phone each day during the carpool to gymnastics. Cha-ching! Our children will not likely notice this unhealthy pattern developing - so we must be vigilant.  

Connect with Your Child Around the Problem

The next step is to help your child understand that using screens to avoid pain is not a wise path. Start by validating that it makes sense to want screens when upset and that they are in good company - most people fall into this pattern at one time or another. Then explain the risk and what to do instead.  I said this to my daughter as she begged for the iPad after school:

After a hard day at school, it is totally understandable that you want to watch a show.  The show takes you into a different world and for a time, you can forget about your problems. I find myself picking up my phone too after hard days. The problem is that when we push away our feelings, they can come back stronger. Also, your anger at your friends may be telling you something important and if you push away your feelings, it will be harder to figure out what to do. Instead, let’s think of other things you can do that feel good to get through the feelings. 

Brainstorm Other Soothing Options

In general, temporarily distracting or soothing ourselves when upset can be very helpful.  However, distracting with screen time is problematic because it can be so numbing and addictive that little to no attention is paid to the feelings and problems at hand.   

The answer is to help your child come up with other ways to soothe themselves when upset.  Look for activities that help them feel comforted (such as cuddling with pets) or temporarily distracted (a family outing), but don’t lend themselves to addiction.  Here are some ideas:

Active: jumping on a trampoline, playing a sport, riding a bike/scooter, taking a walk, gardening, cooking

Creative: playing a musical instrument, drawing, journaling, painting nails, building Legos, playing with dolls

Relaxing: listening to a story, taking a warm bath/shower, reading, listening to music, playing board games/card games, petting a dog/cat

Comforting: using warm blankets, cuddling with stuffed animals, cuddling with a family member, using a hot water bottle/heating pad 

Your child will mostly resist turning to these soothing activities, and complain that none of them “work” to help them feel better.  With these options, your child must do more emotional work in tolerating their feelings because they are not so numb.  Don’t give up!  With practice, your child can learn to face their distress and soothe in healthy ways.  Dealing with pain will ultimately create the resilience we all want for our children. 

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

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.

Continue Reading...

Why Can't I Have Screen Time? You're Always on YOUR Computer!

Aug 12, 2020

As we continue to work and learn from home, many parents are facing this question from their children: “Why can’t I have screen time? You’re always on your computer!” 

Until five months ago, parents worked while their children were in school and out of the house. Not anymore. Our children are surprised to see how much time we spend on our screens during the workday. They can’t see the logic of us telling them to log off and go play, while we continue online hour after hour. Parents are worried about creating an atmosphere of hypocrisy, but also need to get their work done. Here’s what to do:

Get Your Work Done

I hear of parents trying to hide their computer or phone usage, even when they’re online to get work done. Don’t! You already have too much stress - let’s not add hiding your screen time to the list.  

The reality is that much of what we need to do as adults and parents revolve around screens - more so every day. This is the reality of life in the 21st century.  Screens will be an unavoidable and deeply integrated part of your children’s adult lives too. Instead of hiding, let’s use this as an opportunity to teach your child about this reality, and how to manage it. 

Differentiate Entertainment from Work Screen Time

When your child asks why you get to stay online when they need to get off, It can be useful to show or tell them exactly what you are doing online. They tend to imagine that we are online doing what they want to do online - playing games, texting friends, looking up some cool youtube video. Ha! Not generally so! Tell them:

“As an adult, there are so many things I do on my phone. I’m rarely doing something for entertainment, though it may be hard to tell the difference from looking at me. On my phone, I work, organize your education and social life, get all the things we need for the house, pay all our bills, etc. This type of screen time is different from getting on to play games, text with friends, and watch videos or shows.”

When your child begins to understand that you’re usually doing boring but necessary adult things on your phone, they will begin to complain less about hypocrisy.  

Differentiate Children & Adult Screen Time

There are many areas of life where children and adults have different rules. The same is true for screen time. Adults have the fully developed brain necessary to manage screen time effectively and children do not. This is important for your child to understand. Here’s an example of what you can tell your child to help them understand, 

“As an adult, my brain is fully developed so I’m able to understand and manage the tricky aspects of screens. Children’s brains are still developing and some types of screen time may affect this development. Also, as you are still developing, you are learning how to deal with screen time. That’s why for now I need to tell you when to get on and off, when to take breaks, and when you have had too much. Over time, I will teach you to do this and you can balance and manage your own screen time.”

Your child may not like this distinction. But, if you offer a clear explanation, over time they will accept it and badger you less about being able to use screens as freely as you do. 

Show Them How You Manage Screen Time

This new reality of working in front of our children offers a unique opportunity to show them how you deal with the tricky aspects of life behind a screen. This is valuable information for them so don’t miss the opportunity! Show them how you stay focused on work tasks and avoid clicking on every alert that comes through.  Explain to them how you know when you need a break from your screen (when your neck hurts? when your eyes are blurry? between every meeting?) and see if they can begin to identify their own physical and emotional cues for breaktime.  

You can even share your screen time struggles - how it can be difficult for you to get off social media, how you sometimes find yourself down a YouTube rabbit hole when you should be finishing a project. This will help them feel normal and less judged for their screen time struggles. Describe the strategies you use to manage these struggles (or at least try to use). Have a good laugh together! Screen time can hook us all! 

Family Screen-Free Time

It is more important than ever to create and honor family screen-free times. These times accomplish two important things:

  • By putting down our phone for meals, family outings, or even just a 10-minute break during a busy day, we model balance for our children. They see us resist the temptation to constantly check our phones and we show them this is doable (though often hard!). 
  • Screen-free times allow us to connect with our children with our full attention - no distractions. Connection is more important than ever as our children are also experiencing stress under these current circumstances and need to know we are tuned into their needs. Connection allows us to have some fun, share some laughs, have a tickle session, or bake some cookies together. Our children will be less resentful of our constant screen time when they feel they also have our attention at predictable times throughout the day.

Children are perceptive and sensitive to what’s “fair” and “unfair”. When they see you doing the thing that you’re asking them not to do, it elicits strong feelings of inequity. This is where some of the struggles occur over screen time - a lack of connectedness, you versus your child. By letting your child in on why and how you are using screen time and why it’s different for adults versus children, they start to understand that you’re not just being mean or hypocritical. Connecting will help you and your child navigate screen time as a team. During this pandemic, we could all use more connection.

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

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.

Continue Reading...

How to Set Up an Effective Screen Time Plan During Remote Learning

Aug 06, 2020

With the start of the school year inching closer each day, many parents are scrambling to figure out how to make it all work. Screen time is a big question mark for many families.  

What does a screen time plan look like when school is streaming on zoom? Can children watch movies even after doing online education? How much is too much? While we will not get this perfect (and shouldn’t aim for perfection), here are some good ways to structure screen time during remote learning.

Separate Entertainment Screen Time From Other Screen Time

This was covered in last week's blog and is worth repeating again. All screen time is not created equal. If your child is learning or creating online, it is not the same as passively consuming a show, videos, or a game. Screen time that helps kids develop or deepen relationships is not the same as screen time that replaces human interaction. Count these types of screen time separately. Trust your gut to evaluate the high-quality screen time from the more concerning type of time spent online.

Tell your child:

“You will be doing school on the computer and will continue to stay in touch with your friends online as well. Separate from this, you will get an amount of screen time each day/week that is for pure entertainment. It’s not the same to learn or socialize online as it is to play games and watch videos.”

Set A Routine That Includes Scheduled Screen Time

We are living in a global crisis and embarking on an unprecedented school year. We are anxious about how to manage this new normal, and our children are similarly afraid. Will I ever go to school again? How will I understand my schoolwork without a teacher by my side?  Having a routine is inherently soothing. With routine comes clarity and predictability. Setting a routine for your child’s day is critical to a successful fall semester. Here is an example:

8:00 - 9:00 am: Get ready, Eat Breakfast, Chores

9:00 - 11:30 am: Educational Screen Time

11:30 - 12:00 pm: Outdoors/Play

12:00 - 1:00 pm: Lunch, clean up

1:00 - 2:30 pm: Educational Screen Time

2:30 - 3:30 pm: Outdoors/ Play

3:30 - 4:00 pm: Social Screen Time

4:00 - 4:30 pm: Outdoors / Play

4:30 - 5:30 pm: Entertainment Screen Time

5:30- 6:30 pm - Dinner

6:30- 8:00 pm - Family Hang Out

8:00 - 9:00 pm: Reading, Bedtime

Tailor this to your family and schooling needs but keep in mind a few key points:

  • Alternate online and offline time so your child can physically and emotionally reset after screen time.  
  • Be clear about when and how much entertainment screen time they will get. 
  • Put entertainment screen time late in the day so your child can look forward to it.
  • Aim for consistency but since that will be impossible, just clearly tell your child that extra entertainment screen time is for that day alone.  Tomorrow, back to the routine.  

In addition to screen time, each day should ideally include some exercise, chores, face-to-face interaction, and unstructured hang out time or play. When this happens, call it a massive success!  

Keep an Eye Out for Signs of Screen Time Overdose

Parents often agonize about finding that ‘perfect’ amount of screen time. In general, this approach is problematic, but during a pandemic, this is downright parental torture. Instead of obsessing about an exact number, watch how screen time affects your child to decide when enough is enough.  

If your child is constantly moody, withdrawn, angry, or defiant after screen time, these can be signs that their screen time is negatively affecting them. It could be the content of the screen time - a game that leaves them amped up, videos that expose them to age-inappropriate material, schoolwork they don’t understand. It could also be the amount of time in front of the screen. Make changes if possible. Replace the shows or games. Cut down on optional screen time hours. Talk to their teacher. Your child may be angry about the changes, but letting them continue is akin to giving them food that causes an allergic reaction. It’s not safe. 

Stay Connected With Your Child

It’s easy for screen time to become a flashpoint for everyone’s frustrations with this stressful time. Instead, try to stay connected to your child. Regularly check in to explore their feelings about how the pandemic has changed their lives. Validate your child’s desire to connect with their friends and be entertained. Let them know you want them to enjoy these benefits of screen time during this difficult period - you just need to keep them safe and balanced along the way. Try to have some fun together each day. Giggle, tickle, bike ride, rough house, bake, build, play, dance, hang… and yes, even watch movies together. It may be this more than anything else that will keep your child emotionally protected through this challenging time.  

Our children will inevitably get more screen time than we ever imagined during this upcoming school year. However, this doesn’t need to be a struggle. With the right routine, we can maintain enough of a healthy balance between various types of screen time and other important life activities. With vigilance, we can notice when enough is enough. With connection, we can (and will) survive this intact, together.  

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 Rhine.  

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.

Continue Reading...

3 Tips For Return to School Screen Time Changes

Jul 31, 2020

Now that many of us will begin the school year with remote learning, parents are panicking about the increase in screen time. Many parents have allowed extra screen time to survive - a short term solution to a tough situation.  

Now what? As remote learning becomes a longer-term situation, many parents are uncomfortable with the amount of screen time their children have been getting but don’t know how to make the transition.  

Here are 3 tips for preparing for the upcoming school year - scaling back screen time without escalating conflict.

TIP #1: Communicate Expectations Now 

Don’t wait until school starts to communicate that screen time changes are coming. Do this now.  

Your child is as anxious about the upcoming school year as you are. They are nervous about learning from home. They miss their friends and fear life will never be the same. If you wait until school begins, when you’re both stressed, to break the news about less screen time, conflict is likely.

Instead, let them know now that screen time changes are coming. Tell them,

“You got extra screen time because we suddenly had to stay home so much, and we all struggled to handle the changes.  Even though it is fun, it’s not healthy to continue with as much as you have now. Once school starts, we will scale back, so enjoy your last few weeks of extra screen time!”

Letting them know in advance gives them time to prepare. Encouraging them to enjoy their last few weeks lets them know you are not anti-technology or trying to punish them. You are simply scaling back in order to secure their emotional and physical well-being.   

TIP #2: Separate Entertainment Screen Time From Other Screen Time

All screen time is not created equal. It is not the same to do an educational math program online as it is to play a game. It is not the same to make a video with iMovie as it is to watch a YouTube video made by someone else. 

There is an important difference between active engagement and passive consumption of media - these types of activities engage different parts of the brain and have different impacts emotionally and developmentally. This distinction has never been so important for parents to understand.  

Entertainment screen time is generally the source of conflict, so decide now how much will be appropriate for your child come fall- regardless of how much time they will spend online for school and social purposes. Then explain to your child what will happen: 

“You will be doing school on the computer and will continue to stay in touch with your friends online as well.  Separate from this, you will get an amount of screen time each day/week that is for pure entertainment. It’s not the same to learn or socialize online as it is to play games and watch videos,”

Note: Parents rightly ask whether group games count as social or entertainment. To determine, assess the nature of the game.  Which parts of the brain are likely engaged? Group online chess  = educational / social; Group Fortnite = entertainment.   

TIP #3: Set A Screen Time Routine

Set a screen time routine now that can continue once school starts.   This will communicate clear expectations and give you something to build on when remote learning begins. 

Sample Schedule:

8:30-10 am: Get ready, Eat Breakfast, Chores

10-11:00 am: Educational Screen Time

11:00 - 12:30 pm: Outdoors

12:30-1:30 pm: Lunch

1:30 - 3 pm: Playtime

3 - 4 pm: Social Screen Time

4-5:30: Entertainment Screen Time

5:30- 6:30 - Dinner

6:30- 8 pm - Family Hang Out

8 - 9 pm: Reading, Go to Bed 

This is just an example, but you can see how this summer schedule can easily morph into a fall schedule by expanding Educational Screen Time in the mornings.  Starting this type of routine now will make the fall changes much easier for you and your child to make.  

This coming school year is unprecedented and will inevitably be marked by surprise and unpredictability.  By clearly communicating expectations, explaining the differences between various types of screen time, and starting a routine now, you set yourself and your child up for a clear & smooth transition, at least in the area of 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 Rhine.  

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.

Continue Reading...

5 Tips for Taming Screen Time Tantrums

Jul 23, 2020

“Nooooo. That’s not fair. I want to keep playing my game!!!” Does that sound familiar? At some point, most of our children have thrown a tantrum when told that their screen time is up. With the increase in screen time during COVID, more children are having difficulty logging off. So what do you do? Keep reading to learn 5 key tips for dealing with screen time tantrums.

Tip #1: Connect with your child

The first thing parents need to do is stay connected with their children. Logging off brings up big feelings for children, and their resistance to doing so brings up big feelings for parents! This can easily turn into a pattern of screen time conflict.  An easy mindset shift can prevent this from happening.  Normally parents approach screen time from a mindset of  “Screen time is terrible, get off now!” Instead, try saying “I absolutely understand why it’s so hard to get off of devices. They are built to hook your attention and keep you wanting more. I get it - I have a hard time logging off too sometimes. Let’s figure out how we can help make it easier.” Making this mindset shift lets your child know that it’s not their fault that it’s hard to unhook.  It is hard for everyone including you, and that you are in this together. By connecting with your child you are opening the door to a discussion that can lead to teaching your child the art of logging off their screen time.  You cannot influence your child if you are not connected with them.

Tip #2: Set a screen time routine

Children do better when they have a routine and know what to expect and when. It’s no different with screen time. Schedule screen time at the same time and duration every day. For example, my children do an hour of educational screen time from 10-11 am.  Then at 4 pm, they can use the family iPad for an hour of any age-appropriate content that they choose. A screen time routine reduces the constant, “Can I have my screen time now?” and makes it easier for children to engage in other activities as they know exactly when and how much screen time they will get.  

Tip #3: Pre-plan for log off time  

Make sure you and your child have come up with a plan in advance for how to help them log off. Talk your child through what they will do to wind down and shut down and what the plan is if they find it hard to unhook from their device. Perhaps you help set a timer that gives them 5 minutes to start to wrap up what they are doing online. Perhaps you can agree together on an enjoyable activity they can do after logging off, to make the unhooking process easier.  For some children, a way to celebrate their log off successes may help - a sticker chart, a special treat or a hug and tickle from a parent.  When the log off time comes along, make sure to be there to support their follow through on the plan.  Remember that logging off is difficult for all of us, so stay connected as they try to enact the plan you made together.   Having a plan makes it easier to anticipate and overcome difficulties when they arise. 

Tip #4: When all else fails...remove & rebuild

 If the first 3 tips aren’t working for your child, this is a sign that they are “in over their heads” with screen time.  They either can’t unhook or they aren’t (yet) willing to try.  Whichever the case, a screen time break will help.  Tell them that screen time is only available to children who can unhook enough to log off and that they will need to take a break from screen time until they seem ready to try again. Give your child a few days to unhook entirely (or just allow school-related tasks, if they’re back in school) and when you think they are ready, start again with a small amount of screen time to continue working on unhooking.  When they can log off without throwing a tantrum, slowly give them a bit more time until you reach their screen time limit.  This strategy will motivate your child to work on unhooking and allows you to see how much screen time your child can handle successfully. 

Tip #5: Don’t give up. You can do this.

Teach your child that tantrums won’t work. Throwing a tantrum should not result in getting screen time. Children should only be allowed more screen time when they have shown that they are able to responsibly manage it. In this case, a tantrum demonstrates the opposite - that they are not ready for the screen time that they have been given. This lesson may take a while to sink in but don’t give up, you’ll get there. 

This process is critical to the overall goal of equipping your child with the skills and habits needed for healthy tech use.  Logging off is hard for many adults so try to be patient with your child who hasn’t developed all of the cognitive skills to self-regulate their tech use! Teaching a child the art of unhooking is giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.  

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 Rhine.  

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.

Continue Reading...

What to Do When Your Child Sneaks Screen Time

Jul 15, 2020

At some point or another, most kids sneak screen time. They stay on for an extra half hour while you’re distracted or lie to the babysitter about how much screen time you have authorized. They may even grab their phone from the docking station after you’re asleep. 

To understand how to address sneaking, we must first answer this question: Why would an otherwise honest kid go to these extremes for screen time?.

Children sneak because they’ve gotten hooked. Apps, games, platforms, and devices are designed specifically to hook our attention. Developers have studied the types of stimuli that best capture our attention and the types of rewards that keep us wanting more. Everyone is susceptible to getting hooked, including our children.

Although it’s not our children’s fault that they get hooked, dishonesty around screen time must be addressed. We cannot guide our children to use screens in healthy ways if they aren’t honest with us. So how do we handle the sneaking?

Connect With Your Child

In my clinical practice, I have seen children land in dangerous situations when they don’t trust their parents with the details of their online lives. Screen time mistakes do happen. Staying connected to children in these moments is critical to establishing the trust necessary to keep them safe online.

I once caught my daughter hiding in the closet playing a game on our iPad during homework time. At first, I reprimanded her for being dishonest and took the iPad away. We ended up disconnected, and all she learned from the exchange was that her mother is mean and doesn’t want her to enjoy games! 

I knew there was a better way. I asked her for a “redo.”  This time I started by connecting with her.

“I understand why you want to play this game. I enjoy my online games too. I see how fun it is for you and I want you to be able to enjoy it.”

With this approach, she felt understood instead of judged. She knew I was being honest because I do enjoy my screen time. Connected to me, she was more likely to learn from the dialogue that came next.

Educate About The Tricky Aspects of Screen Time

Next, I educated her about how the design of the game left her wanting more, and we explored how this led her to sneaking.  

“The people who developed that game really know how to make it hook children. They make it really fun and rewarding by moving up levels and earning points. This leaves you thinking about the game and wanting more even when it isn’t your screen time. Does that sound like what happened?”

Instead of acting like she was the problem, I helped her identify the real problem - the design of the game.

Motivate To Learn Healthy Tech Use

Now I needed to teach her how to unhook from her game.  But first, I needed her to get on board with this process.

“Though I totally understand how this happened, it’s not OK for you to sneak screen time. In this house, you get screen time when you use it in healthy ways. This means being honest and working on not getting hooked. Sneaking is a sign that you are hooked, so you will take a couple of days off screens. When you are ready to work on unhooking and staying honest, you can try again. Make sense?”

Though she didn’t like it, the plan was clear and fair and protected her from getting too hooked. She was motivated to work on healthy tech use because her screen time depended on it.

Make a Plan for Practicing Healthy Tech Use

My daughter’s “break” from screen time lasted two days. At that point, I could tell she was ready to handle screen time in a new way. We looked at her game together and figured out what had hooked her. We explored whether it was a game she could manage or not. We made a plan for what she could do next time she wanted to play at the wrong time (hide the iPad, distract herself, remember that sneaking will make her lose screen time). She got her screen time back and was now motivated to use it more honestly. 

Instead of punishing when your child sneaks screen time, use it as an opportunity to teach them about healthy tech use. Give them a screen time break, help them make a plan, and then send them back online to work on enjoying screen time without getting hooked. 

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 Rhine.  

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.

Continue Reading...

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.

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