Kids today have no idea what it’s like to not have the whole world at their fingertips—technologically speaking. In a matter of seconds, Google answers most questions, Netflix provides endless entertainment and apps open up worlds of games and more. As parents, it can be a struggle to know how and when to limit screen time, since it has become such an integral part of everyday life.
Chanhassen author Judy Stoffel wrote #LookUp: A Parenting Guide to Screen Use. The book targets how parents and children use technology—together and apart—and how they can work together to better utilize technological benefits and combat any negative effects that come from too much or ill-advised screen use.
Stoffel delves into topics, such as how technology has benefitted society, the medical side effects of spending too much time staring at a screen and how to work as a family to develop a plan to safely use technology.
What motivated you to write the book?
The book idea started percolating around in my head while I was doing research when my then 7th grader asked for a smartphone. We are the first generation of parents trying to raise children tethered to their screens; there are no roadmaps or best practices. While I found numerous medical studies and technical books written by neuroscientists or engineers, I couldn’t find a parenting manual to help moms and dads navigate this new world of connectivity. I felt compelled to write a book that gives the current medical research at a CliffsNotes version level but also provides solutions to inspire parents to take action.
Did you draw from experience?
It definitely was a benefit that I have raised five children over 30 years—both with and without technology. Spending so much time on these screens is undermining precious time with our families, interrupting our relationships with friends and changing our children’s physical and mental health. Face-to-face human interaction is not the icing on the cake, it is the cake.
What did you learn?
A child’s brain is especially vulnerable, as 90 percent of addictions have roots in the teen years. The most recent and comprehensive study on screens tested 4,500 children and showed that just two hours a day on screens can result in cognitive decline, such as lower scores on thinking and language tests. That should scare the bejeebies out of parents.
What are your top five tips for parents?
1. My number one solution is walk the walk.
2. Out of sight, out of mind.
3. Hold off on purchasing a phone for children as long as possible.
4. Don’t allow phones in the bedroom.
5. Get good and bored.
Why create a family media plan?
[It] can help facilitate conversations that change as your children mature. Of course, when they’re young, you can delay screens, restrict usage [and] monitor behavior, but teaching them the ‘why’ is the ultimate goal. First, you design the plan, ... execute the plan, [and] then you talk and adjust for what is or isn’t working for your family and children.
By reading Stoffel’s book, forming a family media plan and discussing and setting boundaries with children, parents can begin facilitating healthy relationships with technology. Educating children while they are still young is the key to ensuring technology remains a helpful tool instead of a machine that dictates all aspects of our lives.
LookUp can be purchased at thelookupbook.com, through online retailers and Seedlings.