The Father Factor

How to Help Dads Tear Down the Screen-Time Wall

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Sep 18, 2018


Screens here. Screens there. Screens everywhere!

No matter where I am in public these days, I see children interact more with a device than with their parents. Devices with screens—laptops, tablets, smartphones, game systems, and the like—distract the attention of children from their parents. These distractions only get worse as children age and they become more reliant on devices for entertainment and communication.

But what about parents’ use of devices? Isn’t the distraction caused by devices a two-way street? Absolutely!

Recent research conducted by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that parents are not only concerned about device distraction on their teens. It also found that teens are concerned about how devices distract their parents. Parents and teens alike see the wall that devices erect between them.

As you serve dads, it’s critical to help them learn about and address:

  • How their children’s use of devices—especially excessive use—can negatively affect the relationships with their dads.
  • How their own use of devices can negatively affect the relationships with their children.

Encourage dads to:

  • Establish a rule that they and their children will not use/look at a device anytime they’re together during planned family times that don’t require use of a device, such as during meals.
  • Establish a rule that they and their children will not use/look at a device anytime they need the unplanned attention of their children or their children need the unplanned attention of their dads, such as when an unanticipated issue arises that requires a discussion that demands their own and their children’s full attention.

It’s also critical to help dads establish age-appropriate boundaries for their children’s general and ongoing use of devices from an early age. An excellent rule for dads to establish with school-age children, for example, is no use of a device or type of device in certain areas of the home, such as in their children’s bedrooms, with the exception of use for school work.

To assist dads in this effort, share the screen time guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for children’s use of “screen media” (i.e. any device with a screen). These guidelines are:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. 
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

In addition to these guidelines, share these great tips from the AAP for digital use and citizenship and this handy, free tool the AAP created to help parents create a Family Media Plan.

How much do the dads you serve know about the negative effects of device use on the relationships with their children?

Do you address device use with the dads you serve—their own and their children’s use?


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Topics: Featured, General Fatherhood Program Resources, Tips & Tricks

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