Kimberly Vance-Lundsbye, Family Literacy Coordinator for Cariboo Partners for Literacy, and Emily Cherkin, screentime consultant, discuss The Tech Diet for Your Child & Teen: The 7-Step Plan to Reclaim Your Kid’s Childhood (And Your Family’s Sanity. (Submitted).

Kids and screen time – when should parents panic?

How much screen time is too much?

Melissa Hermiston

Special to the Free Press

Each week, an online book club made up of over 90 parents in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region come together to discuss the book “The Tech Diet for Your Child & Teen: The 7-Step Plan to Reclaim Your Kid’s Childhood (And Your Family’s Sanity)” by Australian psychologist, Brad Marshall. This article series captures some of the highlights from the discussion.

With technology at our fingertips – and within easy reach of our children and teens – how can parents really know how much screen time is too much?

Last month, the Tech Diet Book Club welcomed Seattle-based screen-time consultant Emily Cherkin to its weekly Livestream discussion. She offers insight into the important topic of setting limits on access to devices and video games. The overall theme of Cherkin’s advice is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Family values need to be taken into consideration, as well as the child’s personality and sensitivity to screen time.

Smartphones and tablets are complex pieces of technology, Cherkin points out, and are designed to be addictive. That’s not to say all modern technology is bad, but it is important that it be used with intention. Not all time spent on screens is equal. For example, video chatting with family to connect when apart is not the same as scrolling social media to pass time. It’s also important to recognize the impact excessive screen time can have on executive functioning skills. These skills are not fully developed until one is well into their 20s and account for things like self-control, planning and time management. The result of too much screen time can be mood swings, poor posture, lack of eye contact and slipping grades. When it comes to setting boundaries, Cherkin recommends determining “non-negotiables.”

For example, no screens at the dinner table, or before school or on Sundays. Boundaries around screen use depend on a family’s values and priorities. She also suggests families ask themselves three main questions when it comes to tech use – what do we gain, what do we lose and what are we modelling? Above all, Cherkin admits that parenting is never perfect, and that striving for reasonable limits and guidelines while accepting that mistakes and hiccups are going to happen is always the best approach.

Melissa Hermiston is the marketing coordinator with Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy.

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