Tips from teens on reducing screen time

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Question to ask kids and teens:
"If one were to survey teens, what percentage of teens would say that they are concerned about excessive screen time among teens?"

Then share this:
The Pew Research Center just released the results of a survey from 743 teens and reports “Roughly nine-in-ten teens view spending too much time online as a problem facing people their age, including 60% who say it is a major problem.”

I am not at all surprised that so many teens report concerns. Youth and teens regularly tell me that they are bothered by the amount of time “wasted” on screens, which includes their phones.

Now, here is the part that is always key to any of my Tech Talk Tuesdays: solutions. In this same survey, 52% of the respondents reported that have tried to cut back on the time they spend on their cell phones.

Let’s use this survey as a way to start conversations. When talking with my teens, I love having a study that allows me to bring up issues in a more removed way. Talking about screen time use of others means there is less chance my teens will become defensive. So I might pose a question such as: “Given that 52% of teens say that they have tried to cut down on cell phone use, what ways do you think they may have tried?”

After that, having some examples to pitch in for discussion can be useful. Here are a few solutions to reducing screen time teens and youth have shared with me.

  1. My son set the YouTube app on his phone so that YouTube automatically shuts off after 15 minutes. I just learned about this last night when I heard him laughing at a video and then suddenly he stopped and stood up. I asked why he stopped and he told me about the YouTube setting. Then he said, “I really like it particularly for moments like right now when I really do want to get to sleep.” And off to bed, he went.

  2. A few teens have told me that they decided on their own to keep their cell phone out of the bedroom at night when they sleep.

  3. Some have taken their video console out of their bedroom.

  4. A pre-teen told me she tells her mom to hold on to her cell phone until finishes her homework.

  5. A 15-year old boy told me that he realized how playing an instrument used to be calming so he decided to take up a new one to get that feeling back and to rely less on screen time for downtime.

  6. A 16-year old girl shared with me that she started volunteering at a church Sunday school because she loves being with little kids.

  7. My daughter Tessa just finished reading a nonfiction book and liked it so much that she made annotations throughout it and then sent it to a friend from camp. (Book title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**:  A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life — I know, not a parent-friendly title but the themes in the book are great.

As parents (or as teachers, relatives, coaches, etc.) we always have a choice. Do we point out how our kids are overly using screens, or do we point out the times when they have made decisions not to be on screens? I would suggest a positive parenting approach by spending more time pointing out the time they resist the urge to go on a screen and then comment positively on things they are doing offline—emphasizing their abilities and strengths to make wise choices can be so effective.

Here are some suggested questions for this week’s Tech Talk Tuesday (or any day of the week).

  1. If one were to survey teens, what percentage of teens would say that they are concerned about excessive screen time among teens?
  2. Given that 52% of teens report they have tried to cut down on their cell phone use, what do you think they may have tried?
  3. What things do you, as adults, and you as a youth, enjoy doing offline? And what don’t you enjoy doing so much but know it’s important?