There is a powerful documentary about technology and its impact on our kids and communities called Screenagers. This Wednesday evening, Jan 25, 6:15pm, Yarmouth PTO, YEF, YAA, and First Parish are co-hosting a screening of Screenagers. If you live in the area, grab a free ticket and come join us in the Yarmouth High School performing arts center (YPAC).

Setting limits on technology for ourselves and our kids is a struggle for so many of us. Some questions and concerns parents have shared with me include: “What limits are reasonable?” “I feel like I’m the only one who is worried about this!” “I hesitate to set a limit, because then I have to uphold it.”

I like to start limit setting by a conversation with all of the players involved.  Together, screens off, we share our basic needs, wishes, struggles, and concerns around technology. In moments like this, I try to remember that I have two ears and one mouth, to listen twice as much as I speak! It can make each person feel especially respected and heard if their essential ideas are noted down on a shared pad of paper. We are creating a shared family understanding of each other. It feels natural, from this shared understanding, that any limits we create are made because we care about each other.

During an early family conversation about media, we made a distinction between passive media consumption and media creation which I learned about from reading the book The Learning Habit. (for more info, see the link below)

  • Passive media consumption includes most social and communication media, texting, surfing the web, watching tv shows and movies, and gaming.
  • Media creation is creative and educational work such as creating animation, learning code, engaging in digital scrap-booking, blogging, developing presentations and movies.

We mistakenly believe that our kids are learning how to create and use media through consumption – unfortunately, it is entirely different and has a very different effect. One of the biggest differences is that kids naturally self-regulate creative media use. It is usually challenging and hard. On the other hand, the hardest part of media consumption is actually stopping it and getting up from the couch!

As a family, we started noticing the feelings that we have after media consumption. I noticed that people tend to be a little crabby with each other after a session of media consumption, they have a hard time motivating themselves to the next task, and are often inclined to try to steal a few more moments staring at their screen. Studies have shown that media consumption leads to anxiety, reduces memory, and, for students, lowers grade point averages. I like to think of media consumption as candy. We don’t want to give ourselves a full diet of it but a little is sweet! It seems like the sweet spot is anything under 45 minutes a day. Over that, the negative impacts override any of the sweet stuff.

My next post will share how we transitioned this knowledge to action in our family.

If you’re in the area, hope you’ll join me tonight at Screenagers in the Yarmouth High School.

For more information about consumption vs. creation media, read The Learning Habit: A groundbreaking approach to homework and parenting that helps our children succeed in school and lIfe; by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, Rebecca Jackson, and Robert Pressman.