Is Your Phone Ruining Your Bond With Your Kid?

By Rebecca Paredes
June 5, 2024
Teen girl in front of graffiti wall

Welcome to Parent Pixels, a parenting newsletter filled with practical advice, news, and resources to support you and your kids in the digital age. This week:

  • Nearly half of teens report some level of depression, with 28% showing moderate to severe symptoms.
  • How often do you use devices around your kids? New research suggests that distractions — digital or otherwise — can interfere with your bond.
  • We’re heading into summer. How are you feeling about screen time? We share some conversation-starters to help set summer screen time expectations.

Digital Parenting

How does social media affect teen mental health? 

New research conducted by the NORC at the University of Chicago investigates how social media affects teen mental health, and the results are a mixed bag. The study included 1,274 teens and young adults aged 14 to 22.

Key findings:

  • Depression rates among youth have dipped 10% from pandemic peaks, but they’re still high overall. Nearly half of teens reported some level of depression, with 28% showing moderate to severe symptoms.
  • LGBTQ+ youth are particularly affected. About half reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms, compared to nearly one-quarter of their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
  • Teens with depression are more prone to social comparison and feel pressured to show their best selves on social media. However, they also use social media to find support and tailor their feeds to promote well-being.
  • Almost a quarter of the participants use social media throughout the day, up 7% since 2018. Many teens admit they struggle to control their usage, get distracted from other activities, and mindlessly scroll when bored.

What this means for parents: Lead researcher Amanda Lenhart suggests keeping communication open and encouraging teens to be aware of their emotions while using social media. Ask questions like, “How am I feeling right now? Did I see anything that made me feel sad?”

Parental involvement is crucial. Many young adults wish their parents had delayed their social media use. By staying engaged and setting clear rules, you can help your teens safely navigate the digital world.

Parent Pixels is a biweekly newsletter filled with practical advice, news, and resources to support you and your kids in the digital age. Want this newsletter delivered to your inbox a day early? Subscribe here.

Is technoference getting in the way of bonding with your kid?

A recent study published in Frontiers in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reveals that any form of parental distraction, whether digital or not, negatively affects parent-child interaction. 

You may have heard about technoference (when devices interrupt family time). This study asked, “Are the screens the problem, or is it the fact that the parent is distracted?”

In the study, 50 parent-child pairs (with kids around 22 months old) were split into three groups. Group one had no disruptions. Group two parents were asked to stop play time to fill out a paper questionnaire, while group three parents used a tablet. The kids didn’t care whether the distraction was digital or analog. All distractions equally upset them, hurting the quality of interaction.

Big picture: Principal investigator Nevena Dimitrova said the screens themselves aren’t the problem. “Instead,  it seems to be the fact that the parent is not fully engaged in the interaction that negatively impacts parent-child communication.”

Said another way, it’s not your iPhone’s fault — it’s the distraction. Want to boost your bonding time? Try minimizing distractions (easier said than done, we know). Put away your phone or set aside non-digital tasks when you’re having one-on-one time with your family. Giving your full attention can do wonders for your child’s emotional health and development.

Practical Parenting Tips

10 activities for 10- to 12-year-olds to do at home

The end of the school year is coming fast. If you’re a parent of tweens looking for ways to beat the summer boredom blues, we have you covered with this list.

Reading texts: A guide for parents of 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old

Every child matures differently, and that’s especially true for devices. If you’re monitoring your child’s texts, the way you approach that supervision will change as they age. Here’s what you need to know.

Tech Talks With Your Child

The start of summer also means your child will have way more time for screens. Here are some conversation-starters to help manage their screen time:

  1. “What activities do you want to try this summer that don't involve screens?"
  2. “How do you want to spend time with your friends this summer?”
  3. "Can we agree on a daily screen time limit that works for both of us?"
  4. "How do you feel after spending a lot of time on your phone?"
  5. "How can we make sure screen time doesn’t interfere with your sleep?"

What’s Catching Our Eye

📵 What happens when you don’t give kids phones until high school? The Cut profiles several teens whose parents delayed giving them devices, how that decision impacted their social lives, and how they use devices today.

🤔 Parents, we want to know: How do you handle summer screen time? Reply and share your thoughts! We’ll share a few responses in a future issue.

🔐 Did you know that the BrightCanary app has an easy-to-use way to store all your child’s passwords in one place? Learn more about the Password Vault — a free feature available in the BrightCanary app!

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