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Simplifying Science

Screen Diets

We are what we eat…and increasingly, what we watch as well.

So, it should come as no surprise that just like there are nutritionists who can advise on best dietary approaches, now there are screen coaches who can help teach parents how to manage their kids’ consumption of content. The idea is perfectly summarized with this line from a recent NY Times piece: Screen consultants come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

If needing a screen coach sounds extreme (or even ridiculous), think again. None of us had any version of today’s mobile devices when we were young, so naturally we find ourselves struggling toward consensus on the right way to parent around them. This is exacerbated by the fact that many parents are on their own screens incessantly, making them instant hypocrites when telling their own kids to power down. Another hurdle is the social component: a significant part of social life now lives on screens rather than corded phones or playgrounds. The list of downstream complexities is long, starting with: 24/7 access to just about everything; the impossibility of monitoring on-screen interactions; screen-induced distractibility; and sleep deprivation. We all know this list.

Like the parenting coaches quoted in this article, I have been the speaker preaching screen reduction many, many times over. I have also evolved my thinking over the years—yes thanks to raising two teenagers. I still impose pretty strict rules about use and there will never be a device in a bedroom overnight if I can help it, but demonizing screens has to be balanced with the reality that they’re not entirely bad. These days I find myself amazed by clear benefits for us and for our offspring, from the positivity that can flow from a virtual support group of peers to the relief brought by access to that assignment that was left behind at school but, in the 21st century, can be retrieved with ease on the school website (adapted for mobile, of course!) or texted by a friend.

Screen use and what happens on devices might just be the most common — and evolving — pediatric question I get these days, leaving me wondering whether I should hang a shingle as a coach...

Parents around the country, alarmed by the steady patter of studies around screen time, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

A new screen-free parenting coach economy has sprung up to serve the demand. Screen consultants come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind…READ MORE