That Battle You’re Having With Your Kid Over Screens? It’s Not a Fair Fight. (But Here Are 3 Things Parents Can Do.)

Screens for School, Screens for Socializing

So what is going on? It’s called “persuasive design.”

Feel-good Brain Hormones Flowing
“Just let me finish this round, Mom…”

We aren’t fighting our kids; we are fighting their hijacked brains.

Here are 3 things parents can do.

  1. Displace screentime. There will be an end to this, and the upcoming summer provides a transition point to plan for screentime to look different. Start talking about it now. Screentime for this school year can and should be displaced doing other things. We are sick of Zoom. It is time to help kids remember what it means to play and be bored without a device. Challenge them (and yourself) to find ways to do that.
  2. There is tremendous value for parents to “live your life out loud” by sharing your own screentime challenges with your children. This means talking through how and when and why you reach for your phones. (“I’m checking the weather,” “I’m bored so I’m using Instagram,” etc.). This not only promotes executive functioning skill development and shows our kids that we, too, struggle, but it also provides them with the vocabulary to talk about how excessive screen use can impact everyone.
  3. We must teach our children about persuasive design. When kids learn their brains are being manipulated, they get mad. Harness this outrage for good and help your child to see how and when persuasive design techniques make it harder for them to get off when asked. (Use phrases like: “Your brain really wants to keep playing this game and I know it is hard when the time comes to turn it off.”) We have to remember that it isn’t a character flaw or weakness that makes this a battle; it’s literally a hijacked neural pathway.
Worth Fighting For

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Emily is a speaker, writer, consultant, and parent of two. A former middle school teacher, she is now the founder and owner of The Screentime Consultant.

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Emily Cherkin

Emily Cherkin

Emily is a speaker, writer, consultant, and parent of two. A former middle school teacher, she is now the founder and owner of The Screentime Consultant.

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