As a developmental pediatrician, I see an increasing number of families swamped by stress and emotion around kids’ screen use. Raising healthy children is hard in the digital era, especially without community standards about kids and screens – when there’s no clear agreement on what’s best, parents are often led to ignore their own (valid!) concerns. But technology isn’t rock and roll music, which some people resisted for no real reason. In my field, we already know technology can negatively impact children’s development, especially if we don’t teach kids to use it wisely.
CCFC’s advocacy is so important because we cannot afford to let the technology industry decide how we use their products. As parents and caregivers, our role is to help kids thrive – but industry’s goal is, of course, profit, not kids’ wellbeing. To raise resilient children, we must remain mindful as we choose how we live with technology. And we know that kids do far better socially, academically, and behaviorally when parents moderate their screen time.
As adults, we need to be the “brain managers” of the house. Children’s ability to manage their world is related to a skill set called executive function, which has barely started to grow in preschool. Even for teens, it’s still ten years from maturity. This one skill set supports judgment and planning, time management, and self-control – so until kids show themselves ready, they rely on us to keep them safe. That means setting boundaries for technology use rooted in an understanding of child development.
For instance, we can’t expect a typical five-year-old to use a screen appropriately, because they don’t have mature self-management skills. And while we might hope children will figure it out, the opposite tends to be true: early screen habits become late screen habits. To support kids’ needs, we must prioritize what actually builds resilience, like free play, social time with peers, books, and family time. (CCFC’s Screen-Free Week is a great celebration of all of the above!)
For over a decade, CCFC has been one of the strongest advocates in this developing public health situation. They have successfully battled corporations pandering to our children. They provide vital resources to parents, schools, and health care providers. And they urge us as a community to set a standard that will ease the way forward for all families.
CCFC’s work is so important to kids and families that I’m offering a copy of my latest book, How Children Thrive, to anyone who makes a first-time gift of $50 or more. With the strategies in this book and the resources and advocacy of CCFC, I truly believe we can give all kids what they need to thrive.
We want our kids to think for themselves, and we know that marketing uniquely impacts their thinking. We want them to focus on schoolwork, and we know that screens impact attention for the worse. We hope for strong social-emotional and language abilities and yes, too much screen time impacts those parts of childhood too! And we want a healthy lifestyle, but excessive screen time undermines reading, play, eating habits, and exercise.
As my book and CCFC’s advocacy show, there are real solutions to these problems. I hope you’ll join me in supporting CCFC as we work together to guide every kid to a healthy future.