“I don’t want to rely on screens… but…

“I don’t want to rely on screens… but I have to use them sometimes!!

Usually when I hear this, it’s followed by a sheepish look of guilt mixed with indignation (“don’t tell me not to use screens!” I hear you thinking)  

I want to talk about your child’s screentime in a reasonable way that allows you to focus on connection at home, and doesn’t take away a useful tool in your day. 

There are two things I want you to know. 

  1. This is your brain on screens..  

We’ve all heard that screens release dopamine, and that’s part of what makes it addictive. 

I used to understand dopamine to be the “feel good” neurotransmitter/hormone. But, 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭! It’s actually a hormone that tells our body “Hey! You’re about to get something you need! GO GET IT!!” 

Dopamine is a 𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 hormone. That explains why after 3 hours of scrolling through instagram, you don’t actually feel good– but your body does feel like it’s meeting a core need. 

This is your brain on screens: “I NEED to use this because it’s important to my SURVIVAL!” No wonder our kids don’t want to give up their iPads when we say time is up! 

I hope this understanding of dopamine as a motivator helps us view our kids (and ourselves) with some more compassion. Our kids freak out when time is up because their brains are literally releasing chemicals telling them that their survival depends on 5 more minutes of roblox! 

Any of us who sprint those last few feet on a long run know that motivation can be much stronger than the drive to feel good! 

We can view this as a positive- our kids are motivated! They are acting on their drive! Isn’t this what we want for them!? 

As with many other things that impact the chemical signals in our child’s brain, it’s up to us to decide how much, how long, when, and what kind work for us. 

For nearly all of us, b𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗻𝘀 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝘆 𝗶𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗮 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻.

When it comes to your kids and their app usage, consider instead how 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗻𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱’𝘀 𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 to make it less addictive (think: less dopamine, or dopamine from other sources) and more connecting. 

  1. The Screentime Matrix Will Help!  

I’ve created a screentime matrix for us to think about our kids usage in a different way. You can check out the video to see the matrix, and copy it down to analyze where you are and where you want to be!

Instead of feeling guilty about the amount of screentime our kids are using, I invite you to think about how they’re using it, and what’s happening in their brains as they do. 

Ultimately, our families function best when we’re intentional in our choices and knowledgeable about what’s going on inside everyone else’s head!

I’ve heard many parents tell me that this matrix helped them let go of the guilt, understand their child better, and use screens as a point of connection and utility at home. I wish the same for you! 

When do you use screens with your kids at home? How might you make some of the screentime more active and connected?

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