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Internet Addiction

Does Your Child Play Too Much Fortnite?

Use these 10 action steps to manage Fortnite, Minecraft, and other screen time.

The IET/Flickr
Source: The IET/Flickr

Does your child play too much Fortnite? If you are raising a boy between the ages of 8-18, the answer might be, "Yes!" Let’s get this out of the way: Fortnite, Minecraft, and other screen time are not going away. So, if you are reading this article to learn how to eliminate screens from your kids’ lives, I suggest that you move to an isolated island in the Pacific or head north—really far north—where there is no Internet, and Fortnite and Minecraft might be transformed into making forts and outdoor shelters.

Like cars, supermarkets, and electricity, screen time is part of the modern world. And like these other technologies, screens are a mixed blessing. People can be killed in car accidents, supermarkets have reduced the market for local, organic foods, and the production of electricity pollutes the air and water.

However, screens have benefits, too. Want to get in contact with your kids—text them. Want to plan a family trip to Washington, D.C.—make your reservations online. But, how about getting your kids outside to play instead of playing hours of Fortnite?

First, you have to detach them from their screens. It’s not easy, but parents can learn to manage their children’s screen time. It is important to make your management style cooperative and communicative and perhaps participatory and controlling. These 10 action steps to manage screen time for parents are ordered by the level of control that is needed.

Start with the first step:

Cooperative Steps to Manage Screen Time

1. Accept and embrace screens: Screens are not going away, so it's best to view them as something that enriches your children’s lives. Learn how to leverage screens to help your children do better in school, be more open to experience, and be connected more deeply and regularly with family and friends. Become an expert on websites (Commonsensemedia.org), videos (khanacademy.org), and online programs (Outschool.com) for learning and skill development.

2. Model balanced screen time: It's mostly about what you do, not what you say. This basic rule of parenting fits when it comes to managing screens as well as virtually everything else. However, you might need to pay attention to how much time you spend with screens.

Adults use their screens about nine hours per day, exactly the same amount as teenagers. Step back, take a look at your own screen time, and learn to manage it first before you try to model for your kids. One simple suggestion is that you measure your screen time use with a tool, such as Apple Screen Time or Google's Family Link, so you know how you use screens.

Communicative Steps to Manage Screen Time

3. Start young: If your kids are already teenagers, it may be too late to cut back on screen time; instead, you may need to focus on making it more productive. However, with young kids, treat screen time as if it were just another activity. Talk to them about it, engage with them in their screen time, and let them know that you'll be monitoring them.

Creating healthy and balanced family activities that go beyond screens can and should start at an early age. Clear parental expectations that your children will find non-screen activities to keep themselves occupied should be the norm.

4. Talk, teach, take part in screen time: If you act and talk as if screen time is bad for you or that it’s always a high-calorie dessert, rather than a nutritious dinner, your kids will learn to tune you out. The ability to navigate technology and screen time is an important skill that you can do together with your kids. Play games with them, join their social media feeds, and show them how you use screen time in your work.

Robbe Jansens/Flcikr
Source: Robbe Jansens/Flcikr

Participatory Steps to Manage Screen Time

5. Recognize the enemy: Team up with your teens against the hidden enemy, large technology companies whose mission is to keep you glued to your screen. Read Adam Alter’s book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, along with your teenagers. This will help you to understand how these companies “hook” you to your screens.

6. Develop a healthy and balanced “Play Diet”: Kids need to play to learn and interact with others, and many children’s toys and play are digitally-based in the 21st century. However, kids (and adults) benefit from a variety of play activities, including physical, social, creative, and unstructured play, as well. Learn how to create a balanced Play Diet in which your kids’ play consists of more than screen time.

7. Schedule or curate screen time: Parents need to become more involved when kids routinely overdo screen time or engage in inappropriate screenplay. Scheduling access to recreational screen time works well for many families. Recommended amounts of time range from one to two hours of recreational screen time per day. Curating requires more involvement in working with your children to select games, sites, and online activities that fit your criteria.

Controlling Steps to Manage Screen Time

8. Own and control technologies: With younger children, have all games, computers, and devices belong to the family and require permission to use them. It is more difficult for tweens and teens. The simplest method could be to have all cell phones and online tools put away safely at a specified time, simultaneously with the Internet shut down at home. Without Internet access and their phones, your kids will probably stay off screens.

9. Choose and use parental screen time controls: There are dozens of great tools for controlling your children’s access to technology. However, many teens and tweens know tricks for circumventing these. It is imperative that you keep your passwords secret and learn some other tricks to make these tools effective.

10. Consider therapy or placement when there is evidence of addiction: Screen time addiction, or Internet Gaming Disorder, is rare. However, it is time to act when excessive screen time appears to be the cause of impairment at school, socially, and in self-care. Look for clinicians who understand addiction and teens. Inpatient treatment may be warranted in extreme cases, but try everything else first and consider very carefully before using this option.

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