March 23, 2021 by Ally Donnelly, The Hingham Cast
Remember last spring when experts told us not to worry about how much screen time our kids were getting? “Don’t worry,” they said. “Give yourself a break,” they said. “Do what you have to do to survive,” they said. Well, thanks a lot. The inmates are running the asylum at my house and I am the haggard orderly no one listens to.
Cindy Farina gets it. She and her husband Mike had hoped to hold off giving their middle schooler a phone a bit longer. But when Covid hit and shut everything down, they gave Eliza her birthday present early. Working mom Cindy said, “I’m on the phone all day long, so when she gets done with school at 2:30, I’m not necessarily free to hang out with her.” They also wanted Eliza to stay connected to other kids. “What she typically does is puts FaceTime on and then they play a game. So it's interactive, which is great. But you know, the trampoline is less exciting if you have friends you can talk with on your phone.”
Eliza says, for a while, her screen time had gotten out of control. “It’s not good for my health, I know that,” Eliza said. “I tried to cut back, but sometimes it’s hard because there’s nothing else to do. When my mom says, ‘Okay, it’s time to put your screen away,’ sometimes I scream at her. I get to the point where I want to be on it so much that when it gets taken away, I get mad.”
That’s normal and to be expected says Penn State psychologist Meghan Owenz. “It doesn't feel good because the technology companies have made sure that it won't,” she said. “Children's apps, programs, games are persuasively designed to try to increase the amount of time your kid spends on the device and so they're really trapped. And they're freaking out.” Owenz, who wrote the book Spoiled Right, says research shows with just one week without screens kids’ moods improve, their sleep improves and so do their social skills. But rather than forcefully taking technology away from kids she says SPOIL them. The acronym points parents toward more socializing and (bonus!) chores among other things. Listen to this week’s episode of The Hingham ‘Cast to hear the five things she says will help edge out technology and bring your kids “back” from the technological brink.