Should You Limit Your Kids’ Screen Time to Curb Smartphone Addiction?

Both adults and teens alike are often accused of spending too much time scrolling on their phones. But new studies show that these digital obsessions may now be starting a lot sooner — and they may have more dire consequences than we realized. As parents, we want what’s best for our children. So should we take steps to limit their screen time from early on? And if so, how should we do it?

We know that the birth-to-age-three period involves the fastest rate of brain development across the entire human lifespan. And while tech devices have often been used in conjunction with educational activities among children, data shows that this could be detrimental. The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends avoiding screen time altogether for children younger than one year, while children who are older than two should be exposed to screens for no more than one hour per day.

A new study echoes concerns pertaining to screen exposure — and smartphone use, in particular — among kids. According to recent research, one in four children and young people could exhibit signs of problematic smartphone use. Results revealed that more than 23% of young people have a dysfunctional relationship with their smartphones, which is defined by exhibited by withdrawal or even signs of distress when their devices’ batteries were drained. Although 84.7% of arrests for drug law violations made in 2016 were for possession of a controlled substance, it’s clear that even young and law-abiding citizens might be grappling with different kinds of addictions that could quickly alter their brains and consume their lives. And while the link between smartphone usage and mental health issues stands merely as a correlation rather than causation, there’s no denying that mental disorders are on the rise — right along with technology usage. Another recent study found that children who spend more time looking at screens and less in face-to-face interaction suffered in their language development, which could be enough to worry just about any parent.

Of course, your kids might not be exactly eager to give up their devices. Although children over the age of 12 can make decisions regarding post-divorce living situations, personal preferences pertaining to lifestyle might not always be part of every decision-making process in your home. Fortunately, you might have a bit of unexpected support from Apple, as the release of the iOs 13.3 operating system can allow parents to set limits regarding how much time their kids can spend on their iPhones and who they’re able to talk to. Essentially, the feature can impose specific limits on screen time, making features unavailable for use outside set hours of the day. It also allows parents to control contact lists and access to certain contacts via iCloud.

Apple isn’t the only tech giant to release features like these. Google has its own Digital Wellbeing initiative, which features similar aspects, and Facebook and Instagram also allow parents to restrict app usage. And while you can’t expect to shield your child from digital communication altogether, imposing limits from early on can help to teach them the value of unplugging, as well as real connection. Moreover, features like these could play an integral role in keeping your kids safe.

If you don’t have access to these features, however, you should consider creating tech-free zones in the house, locking away electronic devices during certain hours, spending tech-free time together as a family, or frame screen time as a privilege. By setting a positive, phone-free example for your kids, you can encourage healthy habits and limit the amount of negative influence that comes as an unintended side effect of tech use.

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