Parenting in the Age of Screens

“I have noticed both my older children are quicker to anger after screens are taken away. They ask for screen time constantly and are in a terrible mood when I say no.”

– Parent Quote

“I don’t like how my son comes home from school straight to playing video games, but he says that his friends are all playing together. How can I limit screens without isolating him?” 

– Parent Quote

“My daughter says her entire soccer team is on Snapchat, but I worry that if I let her get the app, I’ll have no control over what she’s posting and seeing. I feel really torn.” 

– Parent Quote

Screen time usage and media dependence among youth have drastically increased over the years – further exacerbated by the pandemic. Parents across the nation have expressed frustration and confusion over how to best manage children’s device use without alienating them. In today’s digital world, the topic of screen use poses a new challenge and fuels tension for many families. In a recent nationwide poll on children’s health, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital asked parents to rate their level of concern regarding various health issues. The top three concerns were the overuse of devices (67%), social media (66%), and internet safety (62%) among youth. These concerns are echoed among policymakers and other professionals, with some even going as far as suggesting banning the usage of certain social media apps. 

In an interview with an in-home therapist, she shared that even the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families (DCF) has begun advising parents not to physically remove their child’s devices due to the risk of provoking physical danger. Findings from a recent study from the Digital Wellness Lab also echo this sentiment: nearly half of the parents surveyed said they have more frequent arguments with their children over media use, and 36% of the parents surveyed stated that disagreements are more severe than before the pandemic.  

So, to what extent is screen time really “harmful” for youth? In an era where internet use is so widespread and prominent, to what extent should parents monitor and limit children’s screen use? We wrote this series of articles with the goal of giving caregivers more insight into what youth media use looks like today and what the current research says about the influence of devices. We hope that the information that we share helps parents to make informed decisions that work best for their families.