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Are You a Digital Mentor or a Technology Limiter?

Dec 5, 2018

Are you a Digital Mentor or a Technology Limiter?

Negotiating screen use is a battlefield for many parents. The research is clear: screen time for children under the age of 2 years old is not recommended, children between the ages of 2-5 years old should limit screen time to under a hour a day, and youth in elementary and high school should follow consistent limits which emphasize balance. A large-scale study by Common Sense Media (2015) found that screen use far exceeds these recommendations. For example, tweens in America spend an average of 6 hours a day on screens and teens spend an average of 9 hours a day on screen-use (excluding homework time). So, how do we start to curb screen times to actually follow the recommendations?

A starting point is to reflect on your own tech use. Are you a mentor to your child? How much time do you spend on your phone every day? I used the app, "Moment", to track my own screen use and was shocked at how quickly all the minutes in a day added up. Is your phone constantly in your hand? Do you look at it every time an alert is sent? Do you go to bed with it? This may be one of the most important things that you can do as a parent. Stop and reflect... is this the way you want to mentor your child when it comes to tech use? A Digital Mentor models healthy interactions with screens. Screen time is dedicated to specific times in a day and in specific places. Optimally, we want to have areas of a house which are screen free. Screen use needs to stop at least an hour before bed with phones all being charges in a common place in the home.

The opposite of a Digital Mentor is a Digital Limiter. This is a parent who limits screen time without considering his or her own use of screen use or without discussing screen management as a family. Traditionally, this is what we would define as Authoritarian parenting. Authoritarian parenting is a parenting style characterized by rigid boundaries and little room for negotiation. Conversely, authoritative parenting is characterized by warm, strong parenting, listening and discussing options with the younger members of the family, and maintaining limits. Creating a family media plan ( is a wonderful way to engage the whole family in coming up with a strategy for screen use in the home.

It is important that there are daily, ongoing discussions around digital citizenship, safety, and respect for oneself and others online. It is important that these discussions evolve and continue to take place with your child all the way through into their teen years. Shockingly, Common Sense Media found that 25% of teens say that their parents know little to nothing about their online habits. (

As a parent, it's so easy to get caught up in text messages, social media, and work emails. Make a choice today: put down your phone and choose your family. Spend time really playing with your child, have a fully present conversation with your spouse, get outside and breathe: there is only one today.

December 5, 2018 | Tania Johnson, R. Psychologist, Co-founder of the Institute of Child Psychology

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