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Kids Are Spending Too Much Time on Their Devices Because They Are Copying their Parents
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  • We talk a lot about how we need to manage our children’s devices and limit their screen time, but, parents need to heed this advice for themselves, as this Common Sense Media latest research shows. Although the survey polled American parents and teens, results provide a look at the challenges of raising children today, and it can apply to any parent around the world.

    The research, “The New Normal: Parent, Teens, Screens, and Sleep in the United States,” polled 1,000 parents and teens to determine the impact of devices on family time, relationships, and sleep. Compared with a similar study conducted in 2016, parents admit they spend too much time on their devices, are more distracted, and don't always model healthy digital habits.

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    Kids think parents are addicted to their devices

    The study showed kids follow their parents’ example, especially in key areas that affect health and relationships, such as using devices before (and during) bedtime. The number of parents who say they spend too much time on their mobile devices increased by 23 points since 2016. Even worse, the kids think their parents are addicted! Thirty-eight percent of teens feel their parent is addicted to their mobile device, a 10-point increase since 2016.
     
    Now for some good news. A lot of this device use happened during a time of unchecked technology expansion, where almost every kid under 8 in the United States has access to a mobile device and 89% of teens have their own smartphone. But we’re entering a new era of pushback against companies whose business models are built on what industry critics call “the attention economy.” Here are a few examples that indicate a tipping point may be just around the corner:

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    • There's a growing awareness even among teens that apps manipulate them into spending more time online.
    • Watchdogs are calling out developers for their persuasive design techniques that keep us hooked on games, social media, and apps far longer than we know is good for us.
    • “Digital wellness” features such as usage reports, notifications that remind us to take a break, and activity timers are being baked into apps such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
    • Apple and Google are adding settings to their operating systems that give us more control over our device use.
    • Research into how technology affects health and behavior — for example, addiction and mental well-being — is inconclusive and contradictory, meaning it's far from settled.
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    6 ways to lessen screen time use for the whole family

    With this shift, it should be a little easier to redouble your efforts to rein things in. Focus your efforts on the most critical issues highlighted in the report to improve in the three areas that affect families the most: sleep, distraction, and relationships. If it helps, think of the advice you'd give your kids if they goofed up: Don't dwell on past mistakes, make slight adjustments to get better little by little, and celebrate your wins.

    Guard bedtime like a mama bear

    Do whatever it takes to make sure your kids are getting a good night's sleep. Establish a bedtime routine and click here for some tips to make it a success. Make sure to turn off gadgets at night and avoid letting them use it before bedtime.

    Make screen-time rules

    Figure out how much screen time is right for your family — and stick to your rules. If you have a preschooler, here are some ways that can help you avoid meltdowns when you take the gadgets away.

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    Enable screen-limiting settings

    iPhone users can set the features in Screen Time. Just go Settings and tap on “Screen Time.” Google users can download the Family Link app to control kids' phones.

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    Resist distractions

    Learn a few easy hacks to make your phone less appealing. A simple trick is switching your phone’s screen from colored to black and white. That can dull-down videos and images and make scrolling and tapping on your phone less exciting.

    Understand the tricks of the trade

    Knowing how companies manipulate you and your kids into spending more time online can help you recognize when you're falling into their trap.

    Train yourself to focus.

    Both parents and kids can practice mindfulness and meditation to prepare for bed and calm the mind.

    Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out its ratings and recommendations atwww.commonsense.org and sign up for its newsletter to read more articles like this.

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