Rules for “Screen Time” for kids

Chantelle K. Dockter,
MA Licensed Professional Counselor
Tualatin Oregon

Question:
Should I be concerned with & limit my children’s computer/TV/cell phone time?

Answer: In one word: Absolutely! Let’s face it, we live in a high-tech based society, with endless opportunities to “plug into” some type of technological device. This is no different for our kids and teens…in fact, it could easily be argued that the younger ones are more adept at navigating the tech world than the majority of us adults! There are some benefits that do come from this increase in technology, such as access to more information for our children’s education, cell phones for increased accountability to parents when kids are away, and the ability to learn and use computer skills at an early age.

In light of these benefits, there are also many downfalls and risks to too much “screen time” for our kids. One of the biggest concerns that I encounter as a therapist is that of diminished social skills and reduced social interaction for kids. I see many teens that are not at the social/relational developmental level they should be, partly due to interacting with others over a “screen” (texting, emailing, chat rooms, MySpace etc) rather than face-to-face. The main essence of communication is captured in the nonverbal, such as body language, eye contact, gestures, and tone. All of these vital components are lost when communication is not conducted face-to-face.

The child and teenage years are crucial for social development, as most social skills are learned through observation and practice, rather than being innate. Back in the day where kids would mainly play outdoors, build forts, and play house, there was much more of an opportunity to adequately develop and practice social skills, as well as handle conflict/resolution in person. I see many teens who feel confident handling a cell phone or computer, but really struggle when facing personal, social interactions. This leads to avoidance which reinforces the false sense of security that a screen provides.

As parents, we can assist our children greatly by monitoring and limiting screen time to a reasonable amount, and off-setting that time with increased face-to-face peer time and play. It is not about completely cutting out all tech-based interaction, it is about keeping it minimal so it doesn’t become a hindrance to our children’s social growth and development.

Written by,

Chantelle K. Dockter,
MA Licensed Professional Counselor
Tualatin Oregon