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Too much screen time turns our kids into boring beasts

Your kid gets way too much screen time, and you know it. It’s time to do something about it.

We’ve long known that kids and screens are a bad combination. Anxiety, attention issues, depression, eye pain, neck pain and so on come with spending your life online. But the pandemic struck, and our phones, tablets, and laptops became our lifelines to the world.

So let your kid learn all dances on TikTok. And all your friends were puppies on Snapchat, and you didn’t want yours to be left out. They played video games together, they became friends through bedbreaking and pet trading. They called each other “sus” – suspicious – and tried to find the scammer. It was a moment.

But now your kid can’t function without phone and you are not sure what to do.

School is back; Activities and play dates are back. life is back It’s going to be difficult in the short term, but you need to seriously limit your child’s screen usage.

I’ve watched families arrive at a beach, put lotion on their kids, and then tuck them under umbrellas with their phones to get on with the day. Or come into restaurants and hand out iPads to the kids without expecting any interaction during the meal. A meeting with friends at a park turns into two kids staring side by side at iPads.

A child looks at his iPad and eats.
Parents often give their kids iPads or phones at dinner to keep them calm and entertained.

This is harmful and the damage will be long lasting. You have to stop pretending otherwise.

children to need Boredom. You can’t be entertained every minute of every day. Kids who can’t get bored will end up getting bored. Their dull faces become unable to hold a conversation with anyone. Eye contact is impossible. They can’t work. They take a drug and everyone seems to be okay with it.

That’s the worst part of too much screen time. It leads to people who cannot meaningfully participate in society. They don’t know how to have relationships. The phone stands between them and real life. This real life, with its clumsiness, boredom and monotony just can’t compete with constant dopamine hits and filters that fix every mistake. But we all know how much better this imperfect reality actually is.

It’s also up to the parents. “We just want a quiet dinner,” the parents tell me. I get it. But if you sit down to dinner and your 3-year-old automatically expects a phone, he or she will never learn to socialize while eating. She will never have a conversation at a dinner table. She will never be interesting or interested in other people. You’re not going to take that phone away from her when she’s 4 or 8 or 12 years old. You’re preparing them for a life where you think it’s appropriate to stare at a device over dinner with others. It is not.

“Everyone does it.” That’s just not true. A lot of people let their kids overuse screens right now, yes. But you don’t have to rely on that. You want more for your child – or you should. Don’t let him or her become a zombie because all the other kids jumped off a bridge. Be the parent.

Two children use an iPad.
Reducing screen time can help children develop social skills.

Look I’m not perfect. There were dinners where, for one reason or another, we let our kids use phones or tablets at the table. Maybe our reservation got mixed up and that was the only way to get them to stick together for a 10pm dinner. Maybe we’d spent the day on vacation sightseeing and taking her out to dinner would be a meltdown without her.

My 12 year old is ignoring me in favor of a video game because it’s a weekend morning and this is her allowed time. Flights are a wall-to-wall extravagance in our family. But at all other times, moderation is key for us. The screen as a tool is one thing. The screen as a crutch is another.

In parenthood, we often know what we need to do but find it difficult to actually take action. Let this serve as a nudge to do what’s right for your kids and limit their time online. We’re raising the next generation, and we owe it to them to rehabilitate them from screen addiction. And while you’re at it, maybe limit your use as well.

Twitter: @Karol

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