When Your Dad Is BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith Featuring Hugo Smith, age 14, grade 9.

Hugo Smith.

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How much time would you say he spends on his phone?

Well, a lot. He used to do this thing that would just drive me insane where, while I was talking to him, he would be doing work on his phone, and he’d just be like, “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.” And eventually I’d be like, “OK, what do you think?” And he’d be like, “Uhhhhhhhh.”

So what we convinced him to do was, when he needs to do work stuff, but he wants to spend time with us, and we catch him working like that—he goes into another room, does the work he needs to do, and then he can come back and give us his full attention.

So how did you get him to do that? Did you have to stage an intervention?

No, he sort of came up with it a bit. But also I’ve found that when I’m playing tennis, even just ping-pong, it’s great because we’re both so focused on each other.

Does your dad use Twitter a lot on his phone?

Oh yeah, occasionally at family events and stuff.

How do you know when he’s tweeting?

I check his Twitter account. He is always on Twitter.

So you’ll be at a family event, and you’ll look at Twitter just to see if your dad is tweeting?

Definitely. I’ll be like, “Dad, you retweeted something 30 seconds ago.”

But usually at those family events I’m retweeting things too.

Would you say your parents have a healthy work-life balance?

I think my dad’s definitely gotten better about it. A couple years ago, he worked more, but he’s definitely figuring it out now, it’s good.

What do you think motivated him to figure it out?

Just a lot of “Dad, get off your phone. Daddy, we’re talking to you.”

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Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype

Context and content may be more important factors than time alone when it comes to technology use during childhood

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As a group of scientists from different countries and academic fields with research expertise and experience in screen time, child development and evidence-based policy, we are deeply concerned by the underlying message of this letter. In our opinion, we need quality research and evidence to support these claims and inform any policy discussion. While we agree that the wellbeing of children is a crucial issue and that the impact of screen-based lifestyles demands serious investigation, the message that many parents will hear is that screens are inherently harmful. This is simply not supported by solid research and evidence.

Kids’ Screen Time is a Feminist Issue

google search trends shows increased volume of searches for kids screen time since 2010

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The new poster child for bad parenting is the parent texting their way through dinner, while the kids do the same.

But let’s get real. When we fret about excess screen time as bad parenting, what we’re really talking about is bad mothering. After all, mothers still do more than three times as much routine child care as fathers do, and almost four times as much solo care, according to a 2011 study by Lyn Craig and Killian Mullan.  When we worry that parents are shirking their duties by relying on an electronic babysitter, we’re really worrying that mothers are putting their own needs alongside, or even ahead of, their kids’ needs.

It’s a worry that rears its head any time someone comes up with a technology that makes mothers’ lives easier. As mothers, we’re supposed to embrace—or at least nobly suffer through—all the challenges that parenting throws at us. We’re supposed to accept having little people at our heels while we’re trying to buy the groceries, make dinner, or go to the bathroom. We’re supposed to accept the exhaustion that comes from working a full day at the office and a second shift at home before falling into bed for an inevitably interrupted sleep. We’re supposed to accept the isolation that comes from raising children in a world that regards a crying child as a crime against restaurant patrons or airplane travellers.

The mother who hands her child a smartphone is taking the easy way out of these challenges. But since so much of parenting consists of situations in which there is no easy way out, I’m deeply grateful when somebody offers me a cheat. I love being able to hand my kid an iPhone in a restaurant so we can go out for dinner on a night when nobody feels like cooking or cleaning up. I love knowing I can get a few quiet minutes for a business call — if I let the kids watch Netflix. I love being able to have an actual conversation with a friend while my kids enjoy their Minecraft time. Steve Jobs may have banned iPhones and iPads for his own kids, but I bet he would have rethought that position if he’d actually spent every day at home with them, instead of off running Apple.

 

‘Two-Minute Warnings’ Make Turning Off the TV Harder

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New research shows that giving a child a “two-minute warning” before turning off a video game or TV show does not make it easier for a child to turn away from a screen. In fact, it makes it harder.

…Parents reported that their children were significantly more upset, more often, when given a warning that screen time was about to end than when screen time was stopped without a warning.

…The researchers had a theory: maybe instead of easing a child’s transition away from screens, a two-minute warning prepares them to fight it.

…Programs that automatically repeat or show previews immediately after a show is over can make it difficult for a child to turn away from a screen. Parents were also successful in easing transitions by blaming the technology, declaring the battery dead, the Wi-Fi broken, or pretending that a program a child watched on vacation was not available at home.

“What the technology itself did made a huge difference,” said Ms. Hiniker. “If the technology was backing the parent up, and kind of saying ‘screen time is done now,’ then things went better than if the parent just told the child ‘you’re done.’”

In ‘Screenagers,’ What to Do About Too Much Screen Time

In a scene from the film “Screenagers,” Dr. Delaney Ruston buys her daughter, Tessa, her first smartphone.

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In the new documentary “Screenagers,” children can’t resist the pull of electronic devices, and parents don’t know what to do about it.

Dr. Delaney Ruston, the director of “Screenagers” and a physician serving as filmmaker in residence at Stony Brook Medicine in New York, says that screen time remains a topic that’s often contentious and downright confusing. I spoke with Dr. Ruston about her own family’s messy struggles with digital distractions, and about the surprising insights she learned making this film.

 

Four Hours of Screen Time? No Problem

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This past summer, I came home from work to find my son and his friend M. playing Roblox, a massively multiplayer online game that lets you construct virtual worlds and customize an avatar to explore it.

“How long have they been playing?” I asked his baby sitter.

“Four hours,” she said.

Stunned, I looked at them. “Four?”

At 8 ½, my son had a 15-minute daily limit for iPod games or the Wii and 30 minutes on weekends. By all rights, I should want to kill my baby sitter, who knew that. But I looked at my son, happy, hands flying over the keyboard, talking and laughing with his new friend, and realized, I didn’t care.

It was his first play date in months. There were extenuating circumstances. Over the course of second grade, his behavior deteriorated so badly that he lost every single friend. I looked at his baby sitter and shrugged. “They’re happy,” she confirmed.

The possibility of a new friendship emerging, for me, outweighed all the warnings about screen time.

Why are British kids so unhappy? Two words: screen time

‘If we hadn’t filled our homes with smartphones and tablets and laptops and desktops, none of this would ever have happened.’

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…New research by the charity Action For Children finds that a staggering one in four parents struggles to control their children’s screen use. We’re all in this together, it seems, which should be of some comfort.

…It’s time for some Victorian-style parenting, not least because we also have an 11-year-old, and I can’t be going through all this again. So last night we sat Fred down and laid down the law: from this Sunday, he’s to hand in his phone to us by 10.30pm on school nights – no discussion, no argument, just good old-fashioned “because I said so”. His response? “No way. That is so unfair. I’ve done nothing wrong! If you do this, I’ll just nick your Sim.” (Again, I’ll leave it to you to pepper that lot with profanities.)

Sure, you can blame the parents for this whole sorry mess (I know I do) – if we hadn’t filled our homes with smartphones and tablets and laptops and desktops and, if you really have more money than sense, Apple Watches, none of this would ever have happened. You can even blame society or the government – especially the government. But, really, it’s all Tim Berners-Lee’s fault for inventing this whole bloody web thing.