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August 7, 2018

How to Set Down Your Device and Start Paying Attention

By In the Loop

A recent study found that teens spend an average of nine hours each day looking at a screen. Adults who are determined to not let that be true for their kid will first need to look in the mirror.


While staring intently at our phones during a recent meeting break, we noticed a reassuring comment from Mayo resiliency expert Amit Sood, M.D. It seems "only about 6 percent" of us are "officially" addicted to our various screens, he tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Still, a recent study found that teenagers are spending an average of nine hours a day with their eyes glued to screens, "and that's outside of school," the paper reports. To no great surprise, their mental health and social skills are paying the price. "Attention is a zero-sum game," Dr. Sood tells the P-B. "If they're attending to the technology, they're not paying attention to the person in front of them."

So what's are a parent to do, especially during the school year when our life becomes increasingly busy (and the weather outside eventually becomes frightful — at least in certain northerly climes). Dr. Sood says it comes down to setting and sticking to a few simple screen time guidelines that, to work, must apply to the whole family. "Don't worry that they're not listening to you — worry that they're watching you," Dr. Sood tells the paper, noting that for parents to get their family off to a good start, they can start by modeling good screen behavior themselves.

Next, Dr. Sood says it's vital for kids, and us parents, to put our various devices and screens to bed before we tuck ourselves in each night. "These are such addicting tools — toys — that they'll wake up at 2 a.m. and look at that first," Dr. Sood says of kids who keep smartphones, laptops and other devices in their rooms at night.

The paper offers other tips, taken from Dr. Sood's YouTube channel, such as:

  • Be the change you want to see in your kids by modifying "your own screen time for a week or so before attempting to set new rules for your children and teens."
  • Keep phones and mobile devices away from the breakfast, lunch and dinner table while also "making the first hour of time after school or work a screen-free one."
  • Work on improving the social network between you and your kids by upping the "number of positive, uplifting interactions" you have with them throughout the day rather than allowing them, and yourself, to get lost in technology.
  • Work on instilling a stronger sense of caring and empathy in yourself and your children. "Empathetic people are more likely to engage with others, so encourage your children to read stories about inspiring people, engage in charity work, or visit others," the paper reports.

You can read the full Post-Bulletin story featuring Dr. Sood here. And for more on kids and screen time, check out this Mayo Clinic Radio segment with Mayo Clinic pediatrician Angela Mattke, M.D. Then be sure to leave a comment below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.


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Tags: Community, Dr Angela Mattke, Dr. Amit Sood, Health and Wellness

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