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Joanie Sompayrac has taught college students for more than two decades. She began to notice a change in her students about 10 years ago, and she has a few things to say about raising decisive adults.

“I enjoy teaching and I love my students,” says Sompayrac. “The last 10 years have been really interesting as I have watched students move away from being independent thinkers not afraid to speak their mind. I used to ask questions in class and students would be eager to answer. Today they are terrified to be wrong.

“I have students in my class who are terrible at accounting. I ask them why they are majoring in it and they say, ‘Because my parents told me to,’ not because they are passionate about the subject. They have bought into the notion that their parents know best.”

Sompayrac isn’t alone. Colleges across the country are experiencing this same phenomenon. As a result, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University dean of freshmen, began to research the surprising trend. You can read about in her book,How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.

“Parents are applauding kids at every turn just for showing up versus when they accomplish something,” says Lythcott-Haims. “They are constructing play through play dates. When kids have been raised like this, it is not a surprise that, as young adults, they are still looking for their parents’ approval, direction and protection in college and the world of work.

“The students were becoming less independent as parents increased control over their children’s lives,” she says. “I noticed that too many students weren’t trying to get their parents off their back; they were relieved to have their parents do the hard work.”

While both believe that parents mean well in their attempts to help, neither Lythcott-Haims or Sompayrac believes this kind of parental engagement ultimately helps the students.

“When college students have no idea how to think for themselves, problem-solve and be critical thinkers, that is not a good thing,” Sompayrac contends. “When parents choose their child’s major, intervene in resolving roommate issues or contact a professor about a grade, they are depriving their child of the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Yet these are the very experiences that help young people build confidence, make mistakes, experience consequences, pick themselves back up and keep going.”

So, how can you be helpful without being overbearing? Lythcott-Haims offers these tips:

  • Accept that it’s not about you, it’s about your kid.
  • Notice who your kid actually is, what they’re good at and what they love.
  • Explore diagnostic tools such as StrengthsFinder to help your kid discover what energizes them.
  • Express interest and be helpful.
  • Know when to push forward; know when to pull back.
  • Help them find mentors outside the home.
  • Prepare them for the hard work to come.
  • Don’t do too much for them.
  • Have your own purpose.

Perhaps the greatest way you can start raising decisive adults is to stop hovering, encourage independent thinking and help them fulfill their calling in life.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

At the end of summer, children are facing many transitions in the making. 

Kindergartners are attending school for the first time. Last year’s fifth-graders will go on to middle school. Eighth-graders who were at the top of the pecking order are entering high school and essentially are now the little fish in the big pond. Then there are the seniors – some of whom cannot wait for graduation, while others want to take their sweet time getting there.

Some parents can’t wait for the transitions to occur. Others, however, secretly grieve as they see time flying by, wishing it would stand still for just a bit longer.

No matter where you fall on the transition continuum, the air is typically charged with emotions from excitement, fear and anxiety to anticipation and perhaps feeling overwhelmed. Those with middle and high school-age teens get the added hysteria of hormones in the mix.

As a family, it is possible to have multiple transitions happening simultaneously, each with its own set of expectations and unpredictable challenges which can make any sane parent want to disappear.

There’s good news, though! You can intentionally bring calm to the forefront and help your kids thrive during times of transition.

  • Deal with your own emotions. Sometimes parents can be full of anxiety about an upcoming transition while the child is full of excitement. Be careful not to place your emotions on your child. Find an appropriate outlet to talk about how you’re feeling.
  • Acknowledge that change is afoot. Talk about what will be different. Discuss what is exciting and what might be scary about the change.
  • Celebrate the milestone. While preparing for a transition can provoke anxiety, there is reason to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another. Share the ways in which you have seen your child/teen grow and mature. They need to know you believe in them and that you have confidence in their ability to navigate this new adventure.
  • Determine a plan of action. The unknown can be really scary. Helping your child develop an action plan for handling their transition will help build confidence and remove feelings of helplessness.
  • Identify your support team. Coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, grandparents, other extended family members and close friends can all be part of this team. Don’t assume your child/teen knows who is on this team. Discuss it together and make sure they can identify at least three people other than their parents who are on their team.
  • Talk to other parents and children who have already made this transition. Conversations with others who have successfully navigated the journey can be both encouraging and enlightening, saving you a lot of heartache and stress while giving you pointers on how to avoid land mines. For children/teens, talking with others their own age who have walked the road can be comforting and empowering.

All of these transitions are a sign of growth for children and their parents. These are great times to teach the life skills that will help your children be resilient. Instead of trying to avoid the changes, embrace them and make the most of them.

Image from Unsplash.com

Time for parenting 101! When David and Victoria Beckham were criticized by parenting experts for allowing their 4-year-old daughter to have a pacifier, David fought back. He took to social media to set the record straight.

“Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent,” said Beckham.

His response garnered over 600,000 likes on Instagram and more than 23,000 comments. Most of the comments encouraged him in his efforts to be a great dad.

Isn’t it interesting how people can take a snapshot in time and make assumptions that may or may not be correct?

The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish,a parenting book by pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, lists seven basic needs of children. They are:

  • Nurturing relationships;
  • Physical safety and security;
  • Opportunities based on individual personality;
  • Developmentally appropriate experiences;
  • Rules and expectations;
  • A supportive community and cultural continuity; and
  • Future protection.

Anyone with siblings or children knows that, even when children have the same biological parents, their personalities can be as different as night and day, and their needs are not the same. A parent may not be able to turn their back on one child for a split-second without something happening, where another child entertains himself for lengthy periods of time. One child may be more outgoing than the others. Some struggle with what seems like non-stop ear infections while the others are the picture of health.

Engaged parents know things about their children that other people usually do not.

Have you ever been “that parent” in the mall, watching your child have a meltdown while feeling helpless and beating yourself up inside because you know people are watching and probably judging your parenting skills?

Parenting is complicated. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and judge, but when you are in the throes of it, it just isn’t that simple. There is no one cookie-cutter approach for every single child. Most parents are doing the best they know how to do. Being critical without being privy to the big picture is not helpful unless there is legitimate concern of abuse.

Every human being needs to know they are loved, capable, valued and safe. Children look to their parents and want to know if they love them and believe in them and if they measure up.

How parents express answers to these questions probably will look different depending on the child’s needs. Some may need a pacifier when they don’t feel good, even when they are 4 years old. Others may cross a clear boundary and receive a very loving, firm and needed consequence. From an outsider’s vantage point, it may even seem harsh.

Some parents really do need help with their parenting skills. However, it doesn’t seem like judging them publicly without knowing more details is the answer. Remembering that healthy parenting choices vary depending on the situation, the child and the environment can help foster empathy while avoiding a rush to unfair judgment.

It’s coming and you know it’s coming, and you’re doing everything in your power NOT to think about it. But when your youngest child leaves and you’re alone with a deafeningly silent house, you’ll want to be ready for the transition.

Thousands of young people head off to college each year, leaving their parents with a lot of time on their hands. Although they understand their role has changed, they are not quite sure what that means. Everything is different. No more school sports. No need to buy so many groceries. The mess throughout the house? Gone. It’s officially an empty-nest.

Some parents are excited about this newfound freedom while others find this time rather depressing.

“Making this transition can be tough,” says Pam Johnson, licensed clinical social worker and mother of two adults who have flown the nest. “You have to stay focused on the idea that your child is becoming his own person and pursuing dreams, which was the goal all along. Instead of lamenting the fact they don’t need you anymore, think about what they do need and the opportunity you have before you. As parents, we often put off our own interests to focus our attention on the needs of our children. This is a new season filled with opportunities.”

Johnson recalls that when her daughter went off to college, she and her husband dealt with the transition differently. Her world was turned upside down, but her husband seemed to take everything in stride. When she asked him about it, he explained that their daughter was happy. And he felt confident they had given her a great foundation to stand on her own two feet.

Johnson offers these strategies for making the transition to the empty-nest:

  • Plan ahead. Don’t wait until your child leaves to think about how you will deal with your extra time. Plan some projects to occupy your time. Be intentional about scheduling weekend activities you can do as a couple.
  • Set limits for yourself. As your child settles into a new routine, there will be lots of demands on their time. Let your child make the first phone call and try to limit yourself to checking in once a week. E-mailing or texting are great ways to check in and be supportive without being intrusive.
  • Be there when your child needs you. The first few months may be hard for your child. Encourage perseverance. Send care packages and cards. Make your home a refuge to which they will want to return.
  • Consider the next thing. You have been given the gift of being a parent for a season of life. As that role changes into the empty-nest, you will want to consider what’s next. Keep your eyes and heart open to where you need to go in life and what you want your life to be about.

“Letting go is hard,” Johnson says. “You want to let go of them gracefully.

“Here’s a little secret. When they come home, you will be happy to see them come home AND you will be happy to see them go because you will have transitioned into new routines and rituals that aren’t all about them.”

Image from Unsplash.com

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Are we there yet? He’s touching my side of the seat.  I’m hungry.  I need to go to the bathroom. If you’ve ever taken a family vacation, you know these words are part of the package when it comes to vacationing with children.

Whether you’re taking a two or 10-hour adventure, families can actually succeed in spending lots of time together in a small confined space, create great memories and share some good laughs. 

Although there’s no guarantee you’ll have a perfect trip, these suggestions can help when vacationing with children:

Include your children in the vacation planning process.

Even young children can help find information about your destination on the internet or in books. Whether you plan to camp for the weekend or take a long trip, let them help you choose the activities.

Mark off the miles. 

Once you know where you’re headed, ask the kids to draw a map from home to your final stop. As you click off the miles in your car, have them fill in the road on their drawing. This will help them visualize how far away they are and may help curb a few of those, “Are we there yet?” questions.

Allow each child to assemble their own trip kit.

Make sure you give them a size limit, like a backpack, for their goody bag. Ask them to include games and toys they can play by themselves and at least one game they can enjoy with the entire family. You can even put together your own trip bag with surprise activities or treats to share. Rand McNally has fun travel games for families, including a scavenger hunt.

Create tech-free time frames along the way. 

Remember the license plate game, road trip BINGO, Name That Tune and add-on storytelling? All of these would be great to teach your kids while giving them a break from DVDs or video games.

Start a daily “Positive Attitude” contest the minute you pull out of the driveway. 

Select a family mascot, then award the it to the person who has had the best attitude of the day every evening. The selected family member can keep the mascot until it’s someone else’s time.  

Plan “play breaks” into your allotted travel time.

Even adults can find it hard to travel for long distances without a break. Instead of taking the quickest route to your vacation destination, plan some stops along the way so the children can run off pent-up energy. Have lunch at a park. Look for educational points of interest along the way and give the family a break from the cramped quarters of a car.

All of this may require a little extra planning, but the outcome will be worth it. Since families get to spend so little time together these days, it’s especially important to make the best of the times you do have with each other. Here’s to happy travels and making great memories.

It’s your first child. Naturally, you’re going to be highly motivated to pull out all the stops, learn all the tricks and be the “perfect” parent. Since your child doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, you’ll more than likely rely on friends, family, the internet and your own ideas about what’s appropriate and what to expect from your child.

Dr. Kevin Leman, author of First-Time Mom, says many first-timers who are trying to be great parents push their firstborn a little too hard. There’s a tendency to approach parenting from the perspective of raising the perfect child. Unfortunately, the child often gets buried underneath those high expectations and can feel as if they never measure up.

“Your firstborn child is already going to be highly motivated,” says Leman. “Instead of using conditional love and asking them to continually jump through new hoops, choose to be a nurturing, encouraging presence.”

Leman identifies 10 traps first-time parents often fall into:

A critical eye.

Be aware of your standard of behavior. When is the last time you had a perfect day? Children are the same way. Training takes time and the standard is not perfection. Accept your child as he is and recognize that he is not going to excel at everything.

Overcommitment.

Children want to be a part of a family and they want to identify with their home. When you choose to live an overcommitted life, you are training your child to identify her heart with what is outside the home.

Not enough Vitamin N. 

First-time parents often fall into the trap of thinking that they can make their child happier and better adjusted by what they give to their child and the experiences they provide for their child. Vitamin N stands for No! Too often, giving our child things becomes a substitute for being their parents.

Lack of Vitamin E.

One of the biggest myths today is the concern over self-esteem. Instead of telling your child how wonderful she is just for being a child, you want to teach your child to think in a constructive, positive manner. Esteem comes from accomplishing something and from giving something back. If a child learns how to do something and her parents comment about what a great job she did, she recognizes that the most significant people in my life – my mom and dad – notice what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and recognize that I have a role to play.

Playing the competition game.

Human development is not a race. Early development does not guarantee that a child will be above average her entire life. Instead of comparing your child, enjoy him.

Overexcitement.

As a first-time parent, you will go through many trials and anxieties for the first time. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace. Your baby will take his cues from you. Don’t treat minor instances like they are life and death occurrences.

Over-discipline. 

As a first-time parent you may not be as familiar with age-appropriate behavior. As a result, you’re more likely to over-discipline your child. Your goal is not to control your child, but to be in authority in a healthy way. One mother told how her 9-month-old walked up to the couch and grabbed some decorative pillows. The mom said she told her daughter not to throw them on the floor. The child looked her straight in the eyes and threw them on the floor. Instead of recognizing this as age-appropriate behavior, the mother viewed it as intentionally defiant behavior on the part of her child.

Under-discipline.

The flip side of over-discipline is letting your child do whatever they want without any consequences. With firstborns in particular, you need to lay out exactly what the age-appropriate rules are and follow up. Since firstborns don’t have an older sibling to model behavior, you must be specific about what you want them to do.

Letting other people raise your child.

It is too easy to give into your parents’ or in-laws’ advice. As a first time parent, it may take you awhile to assume your role as a full-fledged adult. You are the parent. No one knows your child better than you. Be responsible for the decisions you make in raising your child.

Allowing your child to be the center of the universe.

Up until age two a child’s favorite word is “mine,” which is totally appropriate. Past this age, teach children how to share and interact with a variety of other children. Teach your child to be aware of other people and not just selfishly barge ahead.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Parents, teachers, coaches, gather round. If you have a teenager in your life, listen up. I may have stumbled onto some insight into the secret digital lives of teenagers.

I have some reliable info about their phones and the things they experience on social media. If you have witnessed a teen with a phone grafted onto their hand, you know that this is big stuff. Oh, and parents – lean in closer here- I’ve learned some interesting things about you, too!

I recently put together a little survey. I had my 6th grade son and 12th grade son send it out to their friends on social media. It took off. I also went to several area high schools and had a number of classes get out their phones and take my 10-question survey and pass it on to their friends. It really took off there, too.

Eight hundred completed surveys later… I have been reliably informed that my survey has popped up at a variety of area schools, public and private, and has even travelled out of Chattanooga via the information superhighway into several different parts of the country.

“Sounds good! What did you find out?”

Hang on, I’m getting there.

“C’mon… if you have good intel about teens and their phones, let’s hear it!”

Okay, but before I help you with this information, I have to confess it really hit me between the eyes as a father of five kids. I have to do better.

There, I said it. My kids need me to do better.

Here is what over 800 teenagers said about phones, social media and their parents.

Vampires that feed on Wi-Fi connections.

Right away, I noticed that some of the most alarming information wasn’t even gleaned from the students’ answers themselves, but was embedded in the survey metadata. Even though the survey is completely anonymous, each one is timestamped – showing when it was completed.

Many of the surveys were completed between 12:00-6:00 AM. My eyes widened as I scrolled through the timestamps. 1:07 AM, 1:18, 1:22, 2:03, 3:30, and on all through the night. This happened on school nights, as in nights before days when teens have to sit through classes covering Geometry, U.S. History and Shakespeare.

Google “sleep and academic performance.”

Life happens on screens.

According to research much more rigorous than my little survey, teens spend between seven and nine hours a day in front of some kind of screen. While these numbers shocked me, the students I have shared this research with have just kinda shrugged and said they think the number of hours is actually higher. Teen faces are in front of phones for a shockingly large amount of time each day. But you already knew that.

The older generation often has a hard time understanding this, but for people who grew up on phones and social media, their life happens online. They have a digital “self” that they often perceive as their “real” self. Relationships are digitized, and the phone is where they hang out.

I had a student tell me recently that 90% of her relationship with her boyfriend takes place over social media. Understand that for teens, being bullied and stalked aren’t simply not-so-great things that happened on their phone. These are traumatic things that happened to them and trigger responses similar to if it happened to them in “real life.” For teens, digital life is real life.

The meme streets of the digital city.

What exactly are teens experiencing on these devices that they are on 24/7? According to the survey, almost 60% are fending off complete strangers that contact them. Between 40-50% of teens are being sent sexual messages and pictures, as well as being solicited for sexual pictures of themselves. They are dealing with intense relationship issues like being broken up with, ignored and lied about. Almost a third of teens reported being bullied, threatened, or stalked. I had a student tell me that 10 minutes after she left a restaurant, the creepy waiter found her online and began messaging her.

Online life is real life; online pain is real pain.

What is the emotional toll of these experiences on teens? Recently, I helped lead a focus group at a local high school. When we asked about the emotions and feelings that teens struggle with, many students were quick to answer “stress” and “depression.” When pressed to explain what they believed contributed to these feelings, “social media” was the first response and was quickly affirmed by several other students.

The observations of the kids in the focus group line up perfectly with the survey’s findings. While a third of respondents reported that “social media has NEVER made me feel stress, anxiety or depressed,” 58% indicated that social media has made them feel stress, 48% indicated social media contributed to anxiety, 40% connected feeling depressed to social media, and 28% of students indicated that social media made them feel all three – stress, anxiety and depression.

Filtering these responses by grade level strongly indicates that stress, anxiety and depression resulting from social media use INCREASES as kids get older. In other words, middle-schoolers were more likely to say that social media didn’t create stress, anxiety or depression, but the number of kids who felt stress, anxiety or depression increased steadily from 9th to 12th grade. Whoa.

Social media is killing our children. There is a growing body of research on social media and mental health. Mom, Dad- get Googling.

No sheriff in the Digital Wild West?

So here is where parents swoop in and help their kids, right? This is when we parents step up and help our teens navigate these difficult online experiences and process the real life hurt. Except the survey raises serious questions about whether this is actually happening. Parents, this is where your kids were very open about you.

A whopping 60% of respondents indicated that their parents “never” check their phone and 20% indicated that their parents check their phone “a couple times a year.” Together, this means 80% of parents check their teens phone once or twice a year or never at all.

When asked, “How long it has been since the last time your parents checked your phone?” many teens answered, “Never, because my parents trust me,” or “They don’t check, they trust me.” I remember another survey I did with students two years ago where I asked them “What helps you make good choices with your phone, what keeps you out of trouble online?” The number one answer might surprise you: It was “knowing that my parents will check my phone.” Besides, your teen might really be a great kid, but bad things can still happen to them online.

If parents are not actually checking their children’s phones, maybe they are keeping tabs on their kids’ lives by being connected to them on the social media apps that they use. Some parents make their kids accept their “follow” or “friend” request, which allows the parent to see what their child is posting. Again, the survey results are not encouraging.

29% of parents are not following their teens on “any” social media apps, and just under half are following their teens on “some” social media apps. Don’t let that “some” encourage you too much. When I personally conducted the survey in classrooms, many students were very quick to tell me that the apps that their parents follow them on are not the apps they use to actually socialize with their friends. Only 24% of students indicated that their parents follow them on all their social media apps.

The family that eats together, tweets together.

So if most parents are not checking their teen’s phone and if they are not connected to their teens on social media, are parents at least having some quality conversations with their teens about their digital lives? Dinner time used to be when families sat down together and talked through the ups and downs of the day. When asked about mealtime habits in their homes, 53% of teens said their family doesn’t eat meals together. If they do, they are on their phones or watching television during the meal. Only 46% indicated that their family does, in fact, eat meals together and that during this time, people are not on their phones or watching television. If these conversations are not happening during meals, when are they happening?

You’re on your own, kid.

Connecting all of these dots paints an alarming picture. Teens have difficult and even traumatic experiences that contribute to stress, anxiety and depression through phones that parents rarely if ever check. Parents are out of the loop when it comes to social media. Dinnertime tabletalk is more and more rare. When families do share a meal together, everyone has a fork in one hand and phone in the other. So, when are parents helping their children navigate these emotionally-complicated digital waters? If the results of my survey are accurate, it seems like most teens are on their own.

The ugly truth.

If we are honest as parents, we are often not attentive to the digital lives of our children. Our own digital lives have consumed us. To peer into our children’s phones would require us to look up from our own. In the meantime, our children are wandering alone through a Digital Metropolis. There are many dark alleys, shady characters and dangerous intersections. We wouldn’t drop our kids off on the outskirts of a big city and say, “Have fun! Make good choices!”

My child’s phone is a portal to another world. I need to be walking with them and talking along the way.

Image from Unsplash.com

5 Parenting Tips for Media Use in Your Home

Knowing these 4 things about brain development and screens are critical.

As a parent, how can you control media use in your home? At the beginning of middle school, Melanie Hempe’s oldest son, Adam, started trading his outdoor time for playing video games inside and she became a Game-Cop Mom. Since Adam was a straight-A student, Hempe let his bad habit slide. 

“But his ninth grade school laptop proved to be too much to manage,” says Hempe, mom of four. “When he graduated from high school I thought he would outgrow his gaming. I did not realize that little kid hobbies become big kid hobbies.”

At the end of his freshman year, Adam dropped out of college due to his gaming. On the trip home, he said, “Mom, ‘World of Warcraft’ did something to me. I’ve been in bed for the last week, depressed.” Knowing that she did not want to have a gamer in her house for the next five years, she asked an Army recruiter to visit. Adam joined the U.S. Army where he could learn to shoot real guns instead of virtual ones.

Her son’s experience set Hempe on a quest to understand gaming and screen addictions.

“As a nurse, I felt like there had to be a scientific explanation for what happened to my son,” Hempe recalls. “I learned that gaming addiction is the number one reason boys drop out of college their freshman year.” 

Like gambling, this addiction can be hard to spot. “After a great deal of research, I decided to present my findings to parents at our school. I was shocked when over 100 parents showed up to that first meeting.” Families Managing Media was founded as an effort to help families prevent childhood screen addictions.

Think about your child’s relationship with their screen:

  • Is it the only thing that puts them in a good mood?
  • Are they unhappy when you take it away?
  • Do they sneak around hiding screens?
  • Is their usage increasing over time?
  • Do you know what they are doing on their screens; do you have all their passwords?
  • Does their screen time interfere with family time and their in-person friendships?

If you answered yes to most of these, your child may be headed for trouble.  

Hempe believes parents need to know at least four things about brain development and media use to help with screen management.

For starters, the prefrontal cortex (the reasoning center) is the last part of the brain to mature and it is impossible to accelerate this maturity.

Even the most intelligent child can have issues managing time or paying attention. 

“Because Adam was smart, I expected him to be able to control his screen use,” Hempe says. “I now understand that this is a task kids are unable to do. Children are not little adults.”

Second, it’s helpful to know that your child’s brain development is based on the activities they are doing.

Like dirt roads being paved, neuronal connections get stronger with use. The connections not being used get pruned away at puberty.  

“Practice typically makes things better, but unfortunately, with things like social media, practice makes it worse,” Hempe shares. “The longer a child is exposed to one type of experience, the harder it is to reverse that effect.” 

Video games and smartphones stimulate one area of the brain: the pleasure center.

Unfortunately, if the whole brain is not stimulated early, it’s a complicated fix in adulthood.  

Thirdly, screen time is not a neutral activity.

Dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. When kids are on their screens, they get an instant dopamine rush from likes on social media, gaming, etc. The “dopamine feedback loop” becomes activated and a craving sets in. The bad news is that school and other “less-exciting” things can’t compete with the novelty offered by screens 24/7.

Fourth, screens replace many activities that are foundational to healthy brain development. 

Handwriting, real play and playing music are very important for a young brain. 

“Movement is absent when your child is on a screen,” Hempe says. “Without enough movement, children have a hard time maintaining focus and dealing with distractions. Even 30 minutes a day makes a huge difference.” 

Reading is the first activity to go when screens are present, and it is the number one predictor of academic success. Sleep is another critical piece. Screen habits make it hard for teens to get the required 9.25 hours of sleep each night.

With this in mind, Hempe encourages parents to do the following to limit media use:

  • Delay access to smartphones and video games. This allows more time for a child to mature so that he or she can use technology wisely. “No” for now doesn’t mean “no” forever. Social media and today’s video games are very addictive.
  • Follow your family’s accounts and co-view their screen activities. Nothing is private in the digital world, so your child/teen’s digital activity should not be private to you. Know exactly what they are doing on their screens.
  • Foster face-to-face social interactions. Social media is not designed for kids. Try a family social media account managed by you on a home laptop in plain view. They do not need six years of social media “training” to learn how to use it, but they do need face-to-face interactions with friends to learn critical social skills.
  • Spend more non-tech time together. Teens with strong family attachments show more overall happiness and success.
  • Help your kids choose and plan healthier forms of entertainment – they need your help. Don’t give the smartphone and video games all the power in your home.

“Our teens need us now more than ever,” Hempe asserts. “It is easy to detach from them when they are on their screens. They want you to help them say no to screen overuse. After all, the only thing they really want more than their virtual world is more real time with you.”

For more information on screen addiction, reclaiming your kids and reconnecting your family, visit Families Managing Media.

Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic, too!