Advice For Parents About Screen Time And Technology : NPR Ed How do you cope with parenting in the digital age? And how do you balance it all? How do you protect your kids, yet give them the freedom to create and explore?

Real Parents, Real Talk About Kids And Screens

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK, Rachel Martin, remind our listeners - you have two kids.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I do.

GREENE: Right - two boys. They're how old?

MARTIN: They're 2 and 4.

GREENE: All right, so I think that you might sort of fit the description of - of something we're about to talk about. Do you spend time yourself, as a parent, looking at screens, at televisions?

MARTIN: What are you doing to me? Putting me on the spot.

GREENE: Yeah, yeah, no you'll - we'll get the point here.

MARTIN: Yes, I will cop to occasionally, when my children are occupied, looking at my iPhone.

GREENE: Do you spend, say, nine hours and 22 minutes a day in front of a screen?

MARTIN: That is a lot of time. Even I don't spend that much time in front of a screen, I don't think...

GREENE: Well...

MARTIN: ...Unless it's work.

GREENE: Yeah, we know - we know a lot of this is not work, according to this new research that's out this week that says a majority of the time is not work. And NPR's Elissa Nadworny is going to tell us about the implications here.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Parents, when you're staring down at a screen doing this...

(SOUNDBITE OF IPHONE SENDING TEXT MESSAGE)

NADWORNY: ...Or a little of this...

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "CANDY CRUSH SAGA")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sweet.

NADWORNY: ...Your kids are watching and learning.

JIM STEYER: As a parent, you're your child's most important role model.

NADWORNY: That's Jim Steyer, who heads Common Sense Media, an organization that focuses on kids, media and technology. And they're the ones behind this new research.

STEYER: How you use media, how you use technology, how much you use it is critically important.

NADWORNY: And here's the funny thing - most parents - 78 percent - think they are modeling good media habits for their kids - yes, the same ones staring at that screen for most of the waking day.

STEYER: That just seems to be a bit hypocritical.

NADWORNY: The researchers talked with nearly 2,000 parents who have kids aged 8 to 18. They asked about their media habits and how they're helping their kids to figure it all out.

STEYER: People feel overwhelmed by devices, addicted to devices, not able to pay attention. And people are uncomfortable with that.

NADWORNY: The main worry for parents - how much time their kids were spending with a machine. They're also concerned about safety, inappropriate content, pornography and cyberbullying.

STEYER: Some parents know what's going on, and I think some parents are totally in the dark when it comes to their kids' media and tech use.

NADWORNY: Lots of people struggle with this. Do they respect their kids' privacy, or do they monitor what they're doing online? The study found two-thirds of parents would rather keep an eye on their kids. On the upside, most parents see the benefits.

STEYER: Media and technology are essential to family life and to childhood and adolescence. And therefore, we have to get more on top of it.

NADWORNY: So what can parents do? For starters, says Steyer, fess up to those nine hours. Talk with your kids about screen time - the negative effects, and emphasize the positive. If your kids are on Snapchat, download the app and check it out. Find out where they're posting and who they're talking to. Maybe set aside certain times where they put down their devices, like at the dinner table or in bed. That advice, says Steyer, is not just for kids. Parents, you can turn off that screen, too. Elissa Nadworny, NPR News.

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