How to Talk to Kids About Screen-Time and Digital Footprint

The podcast provides tips and scripts around screen-time and digital footprint. How much screen-time should kids be allowed to use? How can we help to monitor screen-time and what do we need to discuss with children around posting online? Dr. Susan Bartell discusses social media rules and how to talk to kids about screen-time and digital footprint on this week’s podcast episode.

Special Guest: Susan Bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized parenting psychologist and author, supporting parents in raising happy and healthy kids in a stressful world. She has written the book, The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask and you can find her on national TV and radio- and She writes for US News & World Report (along with me and several other fabulous experts I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing) on a wide range of topics such as the importance of raising grateful children and how to keep teens from turning smartphones into weapons. Dr. Bartell is here today to talk with us on monitoring your child’s screen time and digital footprint.

We live in a world where we can no longer separate the “cyber life” from “real life” – for our kids, it’s just life! Did you know that children between the ages of 5-16 spend an average of six and a half hours or more on screens? They live in an image-based culture where screens are everywhere- they can be accessed anytime—and they can be on the wall, in their hands, on their wrists or even over their eyes!

And in many cases, even young children know more than their parents about navigating different websites, social media sites and cell phone apps. We’ve talked about the online world in other podcast episodes- one with Devorah Heitner on Tech Milestones and Digital Readiness and Sue Scheff about Online Shaming as well as the advantages of getting kids online with Eric Sheninger Today we are turning out attention to screen-time and digital footprint with Dr. Susan Bartell.

The podcast provides:

  • Tips: Make sure you monitor your children’s screen-time.
  • Scripts: How to talk about digital footprint
  • Risks of too much screen-time.
  • How to limit screen-time.
  • Age-appropriate screen-use.
  • Monitoring screen-time.
  • Rules around screen-time.

Important Messages:

  • We need to be vigilant because children are only supposed to be on screens for up to 2 hours per day.
  • Make sure kids are using screens in a public space.
  • Risks of too much screen-time: Unsafe websites
  • Pay attention to ratings of video games, movies and TV shows.
  • Turn off screens at meal times.
  • All important activities should come before screen-time each day. This should be a rule that they shouldn’t deviate from—hard to get them to turn it off to do homework.
  • There should be no screens in a child’s room after bedtime. And screens should be off 45 minutes before bedtime. Screens interfere with the production of natural melatonin that aids sleep. Your brain still thinks it’s light outside due to the light of the screens.
  • Kids need a break from the drama of social media.
  • Many social media sites use the age of 13 as a minimum but many preteens are on before then. If you don’t allow your child on until 13, they may be left out of important social decision-making and group chats with friends. To the extent that you can hold off- you should. But be realistic. If you have them on before- it’s not a free-for-all. There must be rules.
  • Rules for preteens/teens on social media: (1) They need to make you a full friend on all sites. (2) Not allowed to block you. (3) They have to give you their password. You must go on regularly to see what’s going on. (4) You agree that you are not going to comment, like or anything but watch. (5) They need to give you full access to their phone, which you own. Go through texts and social media if your child is new to the phone.
  • Don’t sneak-around to check-up on social media or phone—but rather, let them know that you are going to be checking.
  • Check the digital footprint—this is what happens when you google your name.
  • Snapchat posts don’t really always evaporate in 10 seconds. If someone takes a screenshot and passes it on, it can live forever. This is what you look like on line.
  • The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until age 26. This is the part devoted to decision-making. That’s why there is a higher likelihood of bad decisions.
  • Colleges are hiring people to look at kids’ digital footprints before admitting them. Jobs also look at digital footprint.
  • Make sure you make rules about positing pictures online. For example, about posting pictures of themselves undressed, near alcohol, in a bed, etc.
  • Kids need to understand that they are in charge of their reputation. Sometimes, you just need to make rules around online posting.

Notable Quotables:

  • “Monitor your children when they are online. Once kids see it, they can’t unsee it.”
  • “Do not allow screens at meals. It’s the time you should be having conversations. No kid is going to choose chatting with you over watching a TV show.”
  • “One of the best places to have a conversation with kids is in the car. If you have a TV monitor in the car, save it for long trips.”
  • “Watching any kind of screens before bedtime, interferes with sleep. The light from the screen makes it so your brain still thinks it’s light outside.”
  • “If you are monitoring your children’s social media life: Remember; this is not your world, this is their world. If you’re going to force them to allow you into it, you are doing it as an observer.”
  • When it comes to posting online: “It doesn’t matter what you meant, it’s how it’s perceived.”
  • “Your digital footprint is with you for the rest of your life.”
  • “Kids need to become comfortable owning their online lives—recognizing that they do need to exert some kind of control what is being put up online about them. They don’t need to just allow their friends to post anything they want about them. They can tell their friends to take down a photo of them.”
  • “Sometimes you just have to pull the parenting card.”
  • “You have to monitor and be vigilant about what your child is doing online because once they have seen it, they can not unsee it.”