Gloria DeGaetano has been studying the effects of screens on young brains for years. She’s the f
Why is managing screen time such a challenge?
What’s the best way to handle a child’s device overuse?
A gradual and cooperative approach is best, according to DeGaetano. She suggests forming a media plan. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Family Media Plan (see their website) is customizable to a family’s specific needs. DeGaetano also recommends offering alternatives like audiobooks or stories to replace screen time. These stimulate brain development because the child actively participates through their imagination. This kind of leveraging is a way to offer better ways to use devices, “there are activities that parents can do that will support the child’s development and still keep it easier for them,”DaGaetano says.
When should children first be allowed to use devices?
The AAP recommends one hour per day of high-quality screen time for children ages two to five, ideally co-viewed with the parent. This doesn’t include watching a video with the family, or FaceTime calls with grandparents.
DeGaetano agrees with AAP, but suggests parents: “Hold off as long as they can; they’ll be so happy they did.” DeGaetano cautions against handing your young child a device as a diversion, ”because the younger you introduce screens, the harder it will be to pry them away.”
What age should you give your child a smart phone?
“There’s no reason for children eight to 12 years old to have smartphones,” DeGaetano says. She recommends a flip phone if parents think a phone is necessary for safety or communication reasons.
Between the ages of 13-15 years old, she recommends assessing the maturity of the child and determining whether they can handle a smartphone and the access it allows to the internet and social media. DeGaetano’s explanation is simple, “Children don’t know how to regulate, which can be dangerous.”
Can you fix it?
DeGaetano emphasizes if parents are unhappy with their family’s current screen time usage, it’s never too late to make a change. She’s seen hundreds of clients take part in her three-month coaching process to develop a plan that works for them. “They see happier, calmer kids and feel like they got their child