“Mom, can I have your phone?” asks my 10-year-old son daily since he doesn’t have his own device yet. All of his games are on my phone, as is YouTube, which he uses to watch hockey-related videos.
My soon-to-be teenager, who has had a phone since sixth grade, now has Snapchat and Instagram.
Lately it feels like all I do — even though my kids participate in several sports and school activities — is argue with them about screen time.
I am sure it wouldn’t surprise you that, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, “Teens and Social Media,” YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular online platforms among teens ages 13-17. Also, 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and 45 percent say they are online “almost constantly.”
However, technology isn’t just for kids.
According to the same research, 36 percent of parents say they spend too much time on their phones, 39 percent said they lose focus at work because of checking their phones and 59 percent said they feel obligated to respond to messages immediately.
I don’t know about you, but I have been down the video “rabbit hole,” as I like to call it, where I get lost between blooper videos and heartwarming stories.
Our lives of streaming, watching, reading, and responding to emails and messages isn’t going away anytime soon. While everyone preaches about spending less time on our phones — for kids and parents — most of us don’t know, or at least don’t want to admit, how much time we actually use our devices. If using technology is inevitable, why not make a family pact to use it responsibly?
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that provides information and ratings for entertainment and technology for families and kids, provides digital citizenship curriculum for kids up to age 17. Lessons are based on five core dispositions: slow down and self reflect; explore perspectives; see facts and evidence; envision options and possible impacts; and take action.
Some recommended steps to take based on the five areas include: push beyond your first impression; weigh different people’s values and priorities as well as your own; seek and evaluate information from multiple credible sources; consider how different choices reflect your values and goals; decide on a course of action that feels positive and productive; and make changes in digital habits to support well-being.
While I will try to keep my kids — and myself — away from the abyss of our phones and devices, maybe it’s important to consider not just the amount of screen time, but also how we are using it.
A version of this column appeared in the October 2019 print issue of Northeast Ohio Parent magazine as the monthly “Editor’s Note.”