Make Technology Your Friend, Not Your Enemy

Originally written by Dr. Colleen Carroll as a guest blog post for Swanwick Sleep:

Families around the world enjoy healthy screen time together in many ways, from Netflix movie nights, learning new skills through how-to videos, composing music on computer software, writing ebooks using editing software, playing the latest video games, mapping out hiking and biking routes, staying in touch through video calls, texting and social media, and more!

Technology has brought many enjoyable moments to our lives and can help us extend and enrich our relationships when used productively and safely. Many parents tell me they spend time connecting with their child doing something they both love through the use of fun and innovative software, apps, hardware, and tech toys, since both parent and child can learn how to use them together and apply new skills to other areas of their lives, such as school and work.

As a screen addiction expert and positive screen use advocate, I work with parents internationally to help them find productive ways that technology can be used by their children, ‘tweens, teens. This is critical because, as we all know, technology can also have its drawbacks.

Video gaming addiction is on the rise, bullying and depression are often related to social media use, and research shows that blue light exposure from screen devices causes sleep problems and disrupts our circadian rhythm. Children are the most vulnerable to the negative impact screens can potentially have if not tempered. So knowing how to protect minds and bodies from screen overuse is critical if we want to keep enjoying technology for years to come without causing a myriad of problems.

There are a few key steps I usually recommend parents take to ensure their child and the whole family will be able to enjoy screen devices for a lifetime. It’s important to ensure children live a well-rounded life that technology enhances but doesn’t take over.

Expert Recommendations for Healthy Screen Time

Enjoy screen time that brings out creativity as much as possible, such as:

  • learning a new skill
  • creating or designing a project
  • composing music
  • writing and journaling

Enjoy gaming and social media (anything that “gamifies” and creates instant gratification for the brain) in small quantities, interspersed by non-gaming, creative options.

Ensure your child isn’t spending hours online alone in his or her bedroom. Until the late teen years when healthy screen habits have ideally been formed, children should be in close range of parents while online, with internet activity monitored and openly discussed.

Be sure to include plenty of other activities, such as:

  • offline sports and hobbies
  • socializing in person
  • spending time outdoors
  • reading

Know approximately how much time your child spends online at school to gauge his or her overall screen time use across a week.

Wear blue-light blocking glasses whenever anyone in the family is online to guard against eye strain, shield the eyes and brain from blue light exposure, protect the body’s circadian rhythm and avoid sleep problems (I wear my Swannies computer glasses day and night when I am on screens!)

Be sure you have control over screen time in your family.

Do you feel like your child may be using screens more than you’d like and perhaps not in the most productive ways?

Are you concerned that his or her interest has grown to obsession, or beyond?

Grab your free checklist of the top 10 warning signs of screen addiction here and get solid advice on next steps to take if your child is spending too much time on screens.