Parents, You’re Actually Not Great at Being Screen-Time Role Models

Your kids want you to put the devices down.

When it comes to screens at the dinner table, kids may know best. A new study suggests that parents believe they’re modeling healthy relationships with technology during mealtimes, but they’re not doing as good a job as they think — and their kids are keenly aware of the disconnect, the BBC reports.

Researchers from Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (an annual gathering where leaders of independent schools around the world discuss issues and policy impacting education) surveyed 2,000 kids between 11 and 18 years old. They found that a whopping 82 percent of them thought mealtimes should be device-free. Fourteen percent of them reported that their parents had used technology during meals, but 95 percent of parents denied ever doing so, according to the BBC.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

It‘s time for parents to take a good look at how their own relationships with technology are interfering with family time. In fact, the survey results suggest that children may be leading the charge to set healthier screen boundaries in the home: 36 percent of kids said they’d asked their parents to put down the phone during meals, but of this group 46 percent reported that their parents took no notice. It’s no surprise that 44 percent of them felt upset or ignored when this happened.

This is troubling news, but it shows that kids may be more clued in to the dangers of screens than we give them credit for. “Our poll shows that children are aware of many of the risks associated with overuse of technology,” Mike Buchanan, headmaster of the Ashford School in Kent and chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, told the BBC. Kids also seem to have a solid understanding of the effects of technology on their overall wellbeing: 47 percent of kids reported being worried about the impacts of screen use on their sleep, but only 10 percent of parents were concerned about the same issue.

Kids “need the adults in their lives to set clear boundaries and role model sensible behavior,” Buchanan told the BBC. A big part of this process is consistency, he adds: If kids are told to put their phones away during the school day then come home to parents glued to screens, they’re getting mixed messages about what a healthy relationship with technology actually looks like.

“We hope these findings will be a wake-up call for families and motivate them to have serious conversations about the safe and healthy use of technology,” Emma Robertson, the co-founder of Digital Awareness UK, told the BBC. Kids who’ve grown up with technology and never known a world without screens are at risk for a host of mental and physical problems related to excess screen-time. However this survey suggests that they understand the dangers of technology better than we thought, and may be better equipped to set healthy boundaries than adults (like their parents) who were introduced to this addictive technology later in life.

Read more on the BBC.