As we travel around the world speaking to parents, the No. 1 question we get is how to control kids' technology use and limit screen time. We have done surveys of audiences of parents, listing common concerns and asking which ones are their biggest worries. We list everything from sibling rivalry to substance abuse, and from sexual experimentation to bullying, and the top two vote getters every time — the two biggest worries of parents — are entitled attitudes and addiction to and excessive use of technology.
Now, these two biggest concerns are very closely related. Kids with entitled attitudes are essentially saying, "I deserve to have everything my friends have and everything I want, and I shouldn't have to wait for it or work for it." And one of the main things they feel entitled to is technology — smartphones, tablets, video games and more screen time and more social media.
And parents are worried. They are worried not only about too much time online but also about how texting and social media is replacing real conversation and personal interaction, and how screen time is keeping them from being outside, from getting exercise and from healthy and personal social interaction with peers and with their own siblings and parents. And of course, they are also worried about the bullying, profanity, pornography and crudeness that their kids are exposed to online; not to mention the celebrity culture, the materialistic culture and all the other negative cultures that populate the internet.
So, what is a parent to do?
Well, first of all every family, every situation and every child is different, so we should be wary of one-size-fits-all solutions. But here are some principles that we think apply to every family.
In a future column, we will discuss additional kids-and-technology recommendations and the research and data that they are based on.