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Raising Mentally Healthy Kids with Michelle Nietert

Nov 9, 2021

One of the things I get asked about most in the counseling office is when and how much time kids should be spending on screens because of the correlation between mental health and screen use. With the holidays right around the corner, I want to give you some practical ways to better manage how screens are used in your home. In the first part of my conversation with author Arlene Pellicane, we’re discussing how we address the screen life we have within our families and with our kids. Not all screen time is bad, but it matters how much time we’re spending and what we’re gaining from that time.

Key points from our conversation:

📺 Kids from Gen Z have had access to screens and portable devices since they were born. We need to have parenting tools to help equip our kids to find activities to entertain themselves other than screens.

🧠 When young kids spend time on screens it affects the neurochemicals that build connections in their brain. “Digital candy” experienced through things like gaming, social media, and YouTube provides a rush of dopamine and puts them into the fight-or-flight mode by shutting off blood from the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for decision making.

👀 Screens are a struggle for adults as well, so it’s important to model healthy behaviors to help teach digital social etiquette such as looking away from the screen and looking your child in the eye when they’re speaking to you.

📱 There’s no specific age to give your child a phone, but it is wise to have some safeguards in place. They should be able to be responsible in other areas of life and understand that the rules set for their devices applies no matter where they are. It helps teach integrity.

🎮 Playing games isn’t bad. Certain games have modes that develop creativity rather than something that puts them in fight or flight. Encourage them to build social dynamics into their play. If you’re fighting them to get off, they’re overstimulated.

Resources mentioned:

Screen Kids: 5 Relational Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World
Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life
Happy Home University
Happy Home podcast

Connect with Arlene: website | Instagram | Facebook