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Does My Kid Need a Digital Detox?

Does My Kid Need a Digital Detox?

Many parents are still working from home and have relied heavily on screen time for months just to get through each day with their kids. For a lot of kids, devices are how they’ve stayed connected to friends and family – and even school -- during quarantine. With in-person school starting soon in most Louisiana school districts, will your children need a “digital detox” first?

Kids and adults alike are exhibiting real addictions to screens. Just like other addictions, if it starts to negatively affect your life there’s likely an issue. Some questions to ponder about your kids and screen time:

  • Are they irritable when not on a device?
  • Are real-life experiences being replaced by digital ones? (i.e. not wanting to play on baseball team, but playing video games instead.)
  • Are they sleep deprived because of usage?
  • Are they lying about or trying to hide screen usage?
  • Are they on social media more than 3 hours a day?

If you’re nodding your head to some of these questions, a “digital detox” might be helpful. The most extreme version of digital detox can mean unplugging all devices for 4-6 weeks and slowly reintegrating screen time to find a manageable about of usage.

A true “detox” may not be feasible right now or may not be necessary for your child, but there are ways to start scaling back. The key when cutting out screen time is to replace it with meaningful or healthy activities (although letting a little boredom set in can be a good thing for kids!)

Here are some tips:

  • No screens at meals – it may feel like forced family fun at first, but everyone will come around.
  • No devices in rooms at night – this is a no-brainer; if it’s right there on the nightstand, there’s little impulse control.
  • Make time for other activities - set “screen free” periods during the day.
  • Go for a gradual decrease -- decide how much screen time is acceptable for each child and then reduce it by 30 minutes each week until you reach your goal.
  • Set a technology “bedtime” – the last 1-2 hours of the day should be screen free to help prevent blue light from impacting your or your child’s sleep. If this is a huge change from the normal routine, start small with 15-30 minutes before bedtime and work your way up to 1-2 hours.
  • Consider an activity tracker – they can give kids an incentive to stay active and be competitive with parents as a bonus.
  • Check out apps - For older teens, consider downloading a “detach” app - yes, it seems counterintuitive, but these apps essentially lock your phone to prevent mindless scrolling during designated hours.
  • Make it a challenge – if your family is competitive, compare phone screen times each week – loser makes breakfast for the rest of the group or has to do the others’ chores. This is also a good one for teens to do with friends.
  • Look at the cold, hard numbers -- it may be shocking and embarrassing to track your screen time reports – but sometimes the truth hurts and can help with that “a ha” moment.

One more important tip: be a role model. Put your own phone down and try to cut down on mindless scrolling on social media or too many notifications.