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When screen time becomes scream time

Canadian researchers found that using screen time as a reward heightens a child’s attraction to it. There’s a dopamine connection that makes detaching from a screen feel painful — and for children with developing self-regulation, this can lead to meltdowns.

There are better options for rewarding your children. Some parents set up reward charts, with stars and stickers, that then lead to a special outing or activity.

Praise is a wonderful motivator, and you can capture it by writing your child a card or letter. For pre-readers, craft a short picture book of your child to illustrate how proud you are of them, for example, taking turns with toys around other children.

A beautiful reward for any child is your time: Build a fort, toss a frisbee, make mudpies…let your child lead the way. Your engagement with them forms connections that are critical to their development.

Look for non-screen time family fun. Camping is a perfect way to unplug, and many parents are pleasantly surprised to watch their children find endless joy in trying to catch tadpoles or skip rocks across a stream.

And our favorite? Play! It’s a tenet of what we do at Kidspirit. Sure, kids are learning skills in our programs, but they’re doing it while having a blast. It instills the idea that play and learning are connected, which is truly rewarding.


Brought to you by:

Karen Swanger is the Director of OSU KidSpirit Oregon 4-H Youth Programs


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