Time for a tech tune-up

Are you glued to your phone? Are your kids? Screens aren’t going anywhere, so we need to learn to live with them in a healthy way. A local counselor helps us figure out how. 

By Stephen Simpson

Kids today are on the move — to say the least. Activities, school projects, work and time with friends  have kids shuttling from place to place. Keeping track of this constantly moving carousel of schedules and locations all got a little easier, though, with the advent of cell phones.

These modern wonders of technology almost seem indispensable in today’s world, but parents also undoubtedly wrestle with the idea of how to create boundaries with these devices. After all, parents are abundantly aware of the dangers and risks that devices can pose to their kids.

Like a magnet

Scott Wiley is pastor of Word of Hope Wesleyan Church in Rapid City. He’s also a licensed counselor and author. He’s  wrestled with how both parents and kids can cultivate a healthy relationship with their devices.   

Parents need to be aware of the content of websites and apps, but, as Pastor Scott said, the nature of the device itself can prove to be a challenge to manage. “Electronic devices have the effect of sucking in the brains of people in ways that can be addictive and even damaging,” he said. “We all know people, older or younger, whose face is constantly engrossed in a screen. In fact, more than likely, we find ourselves in that same condition more often than we’d like to admit.”  

Devices seem to have a magnetic way of grabbing the attention of both adults and children. The gripping effects of screens can provide hours of entertainment, but also have the potential for devastating impacts — especially on developing minds. “We’ve seen that screen addiction interrupts real human interaction and can dominate a person’s life more than is healthy,” Pastor Scott went on. “But studies are now being done that show that it’s young people who pay the highest cost. Because the brain is not fully developed until somewhere around age 26, young people are suffering the most damage from excessive screen use.” 

As soon as possible

“The key to helping kids safely navigate the digital age involves parents being keenly aware of what their kids are exposed to and how much screen time they have. The younger the child, the less time their faces should be in a screen,” Pastor Scott explained. He advises parents to set rules around screen time as soon in a child’s life as possible. “These ground rules and limits are to ensure that the child is getting adequate sleep and physical activity, as well as allowing their brain to develop in a more healthy and complete way.”

He also encourages parents to get creative with what he calls screen-free zones. “These can be times and places,” he said. “For instance, ‘no devices at the dinner table,’ or ‘devices all get put away in mom’s room at 9 p.m.’” 

If it seems like screen time has become something beyond just a brief recreational escape, Pastor Scott advises parents to take a stronger approach. “If you think your teen is addicted to screens, you might consider taking a screen-free vacation. Take a camping trip or ski weekend where the only brain stimulation is God’s creation, human interaction and possibly paperback novels. The break from electronics will help your teen with mood regulation, planning ability, empathy and live conversation.” 

Learn more about Pastor Scott’s counseling practice by visiting practicalcc.com

7 Major Symptoms of a Screen Dependency Disorder

Pastor Scott advises parents to be on the lookout for the following symptoms of Screen Dependency Disorder:


•Withdrawal symptoms 

•Failure to reduce or stop screen activities 

•Loss of outside interests 

•Continuation despite negative consequences 

•Lying about extent of use 

•Use to escape adverse moods 

If a child or grandchild demonstrates any of these symptoms in relation to their devices, it may be time to plan a screen-free vacation and connect with a professional, like Pastor Scott.