How (and When) to Limit Kids’ Tech Use

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No one cares more about your child’s well-being and success than you do. In today’s digitally-fueled times, that means guiding him or her not just in the real world but in the always-on virtual one as well. Teach your children to use technology in a healthy way and pick up the skills and habits that will make them successful digital citizens. From 2-year-olds who seem to understand the iPad better than you to teenagers who need some (but not too much) freedom, we’ll walk you through how to make technology work for your family at each stage of the journey.

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Kids are starting a revolution to get their parents to put down their phones

smartphone

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Like many seven-year-olds, Emil Rustige gets ticked off when his parents pay attention to their phones instead of him. But unlike other kids, Emil decided to take the issue to the streets.

With the help of his parents, Rustige organized a demonstration on Sept. 8th in his hometown of Hamburg, Germany, with 150 people joining him to encourage parents to put down their phones.

The slogan for the demonstration: ”Play with ME, not with your cell phones!”

Home Alone, With a Spy Cam


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While parents of young children have long used nanny cams to keep tabs on the babysitters, companies are now marketing these products to parents of teens and preteens, too. This time, the camera lens is pointed not at the untrustworthy caregiver, but at the potentially rebellious adolescent.

“Parents use it to better understand when they come and go, what they’re doing, what time they go to sleep, when they have friends over,” Mr. Stohrer said.

“We are living in an age of fear,” she writes. Most of the dangers our children face — a changing climate, a vanishing middle class, spiraling health care costs — are beyond our control. And so our grip on the things we think we can control — like what our children do with their afternoons — grows tighter.

Should You Track Your Teen’s Location?

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Location tracking can, without question, damage the connection between parent and teenager. Research shows that adolescents who believe their parents have invaded their privacy go on to have higher levels of conflict at home. And teenagers who resent being trailed digitally sometimes disable location features, take pains to “spoof” their GPS, or leave their phones at friends’ houses to throw parents off their scent.

As a psychologist, I also worry that location tracking can confuse the question of who is mainly responsible for the safety of the roaming adolescent — the parent or the teenager? If parents decide against using location tracking, I encourage them to talk with their teenager about why.

The Best Influencers Are Babies

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Any old influencer can market tea-toxes or gummies that claim to give you better hair, but not everyone with 100,000 loyal followers on Instagram happens to be pregnant. “If you’re a baby company or if you’re putting out a product for a mother that’s about to have a baby or if you’re currently pregnant, you’re kind of limited in the amount of influencers out there to work with,” he explains. “So, as you can imagine just for supply and demand, it makes you a lot more valuable because the pool of talent is very limited.”

And then there’s the fact that many of these moms are American millennials selling to other American millennials, all of whom are well acquainted with the act of making a purchase on their phones. Instagram shopping in general has boomed, in part thanks to a new class of brands existing mostly or entirely on the platform.

The Dangers of Distracted Parenting

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…emerging research suggests that a key problem remains underappreciated. It involves kids’ development, but it’s probably not what you think. More than screen-obsessed young children, we should be concerned about tuned-out parents.

Yes, parents now have more face time with their children than did almost any parents in history. Despite a dramatic increase in the percentage of women in the workforce, mothers today astoundingly spend more time caring for their children than mothers did in the 1960s. But the engagement between parent and child is increasingly low-quality, even ersatz. Parents are constantly present in their children’s lives physically, but they are less emotionally attuned. To be clear, I’m not unsympathetic to parents in this predicament. My own adult children like to joke that they wouldn’t have survived infancy if I’d had a smartphone in my clutches 25 years ago.

…Yet for all the talk about children’s screen time, surprisingly little attention is paid to screen use by parents themselves, who now suffer from what the technology expert Linda Stone more than 20 years ago called “continuous partial attention.” This condition is harming not just us, as Stone has argued; it is harming our children. The new parental-interaction style can interrupt an ancient emotional cueing system, whose hallmark is responsive communication, the basis of most human learning. We’re in uncharted territory.