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Screen Time Struggles

Dear Janell,

My 15 year old son does not want to do anything besides be on his screen. Ever. If I ask him to do something, he does it, but immediately goes back to his screen. Unless I am his camp counselor and stand there engaging him all the time, he’s on his screen. We are in a constant struggle to try and get him to do something else besides be on his screen.



Hi Mindy!

Thank you so much for reaching out. You are not alone. What I hear most in your voice - and in the voice of most parents right now - is screen anxiety. These are different and difficult times. It is not typical. Our kids have moved from learning in a classroom to learning entirely online. Whether we like it or not, our kids have been on screens more than ever. And they’ve been home - and so have we - more than ever. We’re noticing behaviors, observing interactions and coping with very new ways of being. This has brought up some uncomfortable feelings around our thoughts, opinions & biases with screens. And it has brought up some of our panic too. As much as I want you to find a way through that works for you & your son, I also want to be sure that you are being kind to yourself under these stressful times. We won’t do this perfectly. So let’s do it the best we can. Let’s dive in.

Right away, I want you to take some time to observe his screen use & observe your reaction to his screen use using some of these reflective questions.

  • What is he doing on his screen?

  • Who is he with on his screen?

  • What might he like about his screens?

  • Is there another way to see his screen use besides negative?

  • When am I annoyed by his screen use (the most)?

  • When does it feel ok?

  • Why might he be opting for his screen over all other options right now?

Once we start to become observers of our own thoughts, feelings and experiences, we can look at them more critically. They become less “everything is wrong” and more “I’ll tune in here”.

For me, I reconcile screen use for my teenagers through the whole child lens of well-being. During this time, the things that feel most important to me are sleep, school and schoolwork, a relatively healthy diet, play (or playfulness/fun/joy), exercise, chores/contributions to the family system and opportunities for connection, character and communication. If these things are generally satisfied each day and my kids are behaving in ways that support who they are & who they want to be online, then I let go of screen control.

I know this is not a formula for a perfect equation to a perfect outcome, but I think in the flexibility and adaptability, we can find a frame we all feel good about and start to enjoy each other again.

Keep going!


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