The average American touches their phone about 2,617 times per day — and studies show we spend up to 50 percent of the day on our devices alone. Research tells us that excessive use of technology can take a toll on our mental well-being, and as a result, many of us are increasingly aware of the need to better regulate our relationship — and our children’s relationship — with devices. In a new interview, tech entrepreneur Evan Spiegel reveals that he and his wife, Miranda Kerr, set their children’s limit at 90 minutes per week.
In The Financial Times, Spiegel, the founder and CEO of Snap, opened up about why he values the need for setting limits around technology, noting that he was not allowed to watch TV until he was almost a teenager. “I actually thought that was valuable because I spent a lot of time just building stuff and reading,” he recalled. As parents of a baby and a 7-year-old, Spiegel and Kerr take pride in setting limits on screen time as a family — and that limit doesn’t only apply to the kids. “Parents need to set an example too,” Spiegel says. “I think the more interesting conversation to have is really around the quality of that screen time.”
While it’s not always easy to tell your children to read a book instead of play a video game, it’s important to set some sort of limit, Michelle Drouin, Ph.D., a psychology and technology professor at Purdue University tells Thrive Global. “Hearing industry leaders speak out about their own limits should be an eye-opener for the general public about the potential dangers of tech addiction,” she says. “If you’re giving your child a device, it should always come with an agreement about how it will be used.”
Whether you have a strict policy already in place, like Spiegel and Kerr, or simply want to start a conversation with your kids about more mindful screen time, here are a few tips that will help you establish boundaries in your home:
Educate yourself first
“Parents are often unaware of how addictive these devices really are,” Drouin notes. “For parents who are just getting into the game, they should first educate themselves.” Drouin recommends looking at online resources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. “These sites provide guidelines for media plans that can be customized to your own children. Don’t be afraid to do your research.”
Implement the 30/30 rule
One tactic Drouin recommends is trying a thirty minute swap with your kids. “For every 30 minutes of video games they play, they then play outside for 30 minutes, or go and read for 30 minutes,” she suggests. Instead of telling your kids to completely put away phones, suggest other activities that spark imagination and creativity. “It encourages them to engage in healthy lifestyle habits, like getting more exercise, or using their creativity to make something from a scratch,” she says.
Focus on spaces
Another smart strategy is focusing on setting tech limits around physical spaces, instead of holding your children to set numbers. “Focus on specific spaces that aren’t meant for technology,” Drouin recommends. “If you don’t want to set a time limit, set boundaries around physical spaces — limiting tech use when they’re in the bedroom, in the car, or at the dinner table.”
Start the conversation
Telling your children to detach themselves from their screens can be a tough sell if they’re completely unaware of the potential dangers involved. Starting an open and ongoing conversation can help with this. “Talk to your children about the dangers of technology addiction,” Drouin suggests. “By making sure they understand that there’s a negative consequence to excessive technology, they can better understand why they have their limits — and they may even want some time without it.”
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