Yale Parenting Center
Making Families Stronger March 2016

From Alan Kazdin

Our readers voted and we listened!  Your topic for this month is...

Children and Technology

The use of technology in the form of computers, tablets, television, video game systems, and smart phones has become such a part of our lives.  They entertain us, allow us to connect with others, provide information and education tools, and simply make our lives easier. 

As with any advance, there is usually another side.  In relation to children, an enormous concern of parents is monitoring and controlling time on devices.  There is great reason for concern.  Parents worry about cyber bullying, violent video games, inappropriate content, and too much screen time. 

For decades long before computers and advanced technologies, we have known that monitoring children (knowing where they are and what they are doing) is critically important.  Unmonitored children and adolescents tend to get into much more trouble.  Monitoring does not mean hovering, but rather keeping track of what the child is doing and with whom.  As it turns out, this is quite true with device use as well.  In fact, when a parent might assume the child is doing homework on the computer, that may not be the case.  Monitoring and calmly spot checking what your child is doing is important. 

We hope that this newsletter provides some helpful information on how to monitor and manage your child's use of technology and devices. 


For Parents

How to Structure Your Child's Use of Electronic Devices

In a world where we are all consumed and inundated with technology, it can be hard to monitor and structure your child's use of devices.  Here are some tips to get a handle on it. 
  • Allow for a designated block of time for screens during the week.  Be specific with the rule so your child knows exactly when and how much time is allowed.
  • Avoid taking away all screen time all at once.  This could cause a lot of friction and even increase aggression in children. 
  • Get rid of background TV.  If it's not time to watch, and especially if no one is watching, turn it off.
  • Be a model for your child.  Limit you own use of screen time and set aside devices for dinner or family activities.
  • Try a screen free period.  Have a day or an afternoon that is screen free for the whole family and filled with other fun activities.
  • Watch with your child.  When you can, watch TV with your child.  Discuss the program, ask and answer questions.

Getting Kids to Turn off Devices Calmly Through Practice

Many parents tell us that getting their children to turn off video games or TV can be a big battle.  They find themselves threatening punishment, yelling, and even grabbing devices out of their children's hands.  Unfortunately, this could be making the problem worse. 

One very useful tool to help with this behavior is to practice with your child.  For example, at a time when your child is not using a device, hand them a piece of paper and say,"Let's pretend that this paper is your tablet.  I'm going to tell you it's time to turn it off and put it down.  You just pretend to do that calmly and you can earn a small treat.  Ready, here we go.  Please turn off your tablet and put it on the table." 

When the child complies with the pretend you should praise with big enthusiasm.  You can say, "Awesome job turning it off so calmly, give me a high-five!  Now let's go get your treat!"  Do this type of role play every day and you will start to see this behavior improve.  Be sure to praise when the child turns off devices calmly any time it actually happens.

When to Worry About Your Child's Screen Use

Look for the following red flags and seek professional help if your child exhibits these:
  • loss of interest or not doing other enjoyable activities
  • changes in mood
  • changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • homework and grades affected
  • friendships ending or changing
  • increased aggression or anxiety
  • playing or viewing violent or aggressive games or content

Professional Interest

Use Shaping for Reducing Screen Time

A common concern of parents is that their child is engaging in too much video game or TV time.  Many families have televisions, computers, tablets, and video game systems in their homes to complicate the problem. 

When working with families to structure screen time, don't advise them to take all of it away, rather work with them to use shaping to reduce it.  Slowly cut back on time. Once the child is successfully able to stick with the designated block of time, you can reduce it slowly.  Teach the parent how to reinforce the child for turning off devices calmly at the designated time. They should praise enthusiastically and use a small reward each time the child succeeds.  You will need four to six days of success before you can go to the next level. 

Do you want to learn more about how to use shaping to help your clients? 

Check out our training opportunities here! 


Our next Basic Training Webinar is scheduled for July 12th, 14th, 19th, and 21st 12:00-2:00pm EST.

Check our website for more information and to register!

What's Happening at the Center

Is Your Child Stuggling With Behavioral Problems?

Free Six Session Program for CT Families

If you are the parent of a child age 6 to 12 who has behavioral difficulties, you may be eligible for a special program at YPC.  This program is offered at no cost to qualifying families.

Click here for more information

How Parents Should Use Their Screen Time

Make the most our of your own screen time and check out our video streams to learn the most effective parenting strategies!

Information on video streams here

Dear YPC

Dear YPC,

Hello.  I hope you can help me with my problem.  My son, James is 11 years old and he is obsessed with video games.  He wants to play them all day and night.  Some days he is in his room for hours and doesn’t even want to stop for meals.  When I tell him to turn it off, he refuses and gets very angry and yells at me.  I feel like just taking all video games out of the house for good.  Please help! Sincerely, Danielle

Dear Danielle,

Thank you for reaching out to us about your son.  This sounds like it has been very stressful.  We do have some suggestions to try to get a handle on his video game use.  First, we recommend moving the video game system out of his room.  Putting it in a common area will enable you to see what he is doing and it can help with the problem of him isolating himself in his room. 

Another thing you can do is  expand his activities outside of video games, and therefore start to shorten video game time. Whenever he is doing other activities for example eating meals, talking with family members, playing outside, spending time with friends, playing with the family pet, reading, you should reinforce him.  You can praise enthusiastically for these other activities.  It may be a good idea to set up a reward program where he can earn points this way towards some small rewards. If you do this consistently, you will find that he is beginning to spend more and more time away from video games.  Good luck!

Sincerely, YPC

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