How Much Screen Time For A 12 Year Old Boy Technology, Social Media and Your Teen

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Technology, Social Media and Your Teen

My kids are in a school with extremely poor technology. There are no televisions, computers or tablets in the classroom, and mobile phones are prohibited during the school day. Families are encouraged to keep their children screen-free in the early years (up to age six), and for grades one through seven, limited screen time is recommended only on weekends. Our family has followed these guidelines since our children started school and we have rarely deviated from them.

Now that my daughter is 13 and in middle school, the struggle to limit screen time and social media exposure is real. Most of my daughter’s classmates have Instagram accounts and many of them smuggle phones into the classroom, despite the “no technology” rule. She says that without her own account, she often feels disconnected from her classmates because she hasn’t seen the latest Instagram post that everyone is talking about. Are we hindering her ability to socialize and communicate with her friends? Maybe this is simply a Generation Z (post-millennial) way to reach each other, like we did as teenagers when we dragged our long phone cords across the hall to our rooms to chat with friends all night. This leaves me questioning my decisions and hoping that my husband and I are making the right choices for our daughter when it comes to limiting her exposure to social media and screens. And I also wonder why I feel like I’m one of the only parents still holding on.

However, after watching the documentary recently Screenagers: Growing up in the Digital Age, I felt better about our decisions when I saw studies on the effects of excessive screen time and how it can harm the physical development of young people’s brains. Studies show a link between too much screen time and a lower attention span, as well as a negative impact on learning. Screenagers director and mother, dr. Delaney Ruston documents the real pain her daughter feels when her cell phone is taken away, and reminds parents that teenagers are incapable of self-regulation when it comes to screen time and social media. Parents and guardians need to be the ones to set limits and consider writing contracts to govern screen use if they choose to do so. They must also set an example for children by being good role models themselves. And that means having your own guidelines for time spent on devices.

Another encouraging moment for me came at the end of the film, when a group of teenagers talk about how happy they are that their parents set boundaries and rules around their screen time, saying that they would probably fail in school if they didn’t have clear boundaries. How refreshing. I think the most important thing to remember as a parent navigating the ever-changing boundaries of technology and social media is that you are still shaping your children’s future. If you expect what food they eat, what grades they get, and how much sleep they need, then why not do the same for media and technology? Food for thought. Who’s got my back?

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