The Three W's

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Has The Best Screen Time & Social Media Rule For Parents

The next time you pick up your phone, ask yourself three questions.

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Little adorable brother and sister using smartphone, playing, watching cartoons together. Addicted t...

Although a lot of us spent some amount of our childhood growing up with the internet, it’s not the same as what our kids are facing today. For a decade now, screen time and social media use has been a huge discussion in the parenting world, and as technology continues to shift, we have to continue to reevaluate our guidelines with our kids. Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently wrote an op-ed for CNN discussing screen time, social media, and wellness — and he dropped a really good rule for parents.

Dr. Gupta’s op-ed on kids’ social media use was sparked by several new pieces of legislation popping up at the state level regarding social media use — including Montana’s recent banning of TikTok. Other states are looking into potential regulations to reduce harm to children from social media.

After pointing to studies and experts who touch on the many ways that life is different for our kids growing up in the internet and social media world, Dr. Gupta shared some insight into how he and his wife, Rebecca, navigated setting boundaries and guidelines at his house.

Dr. Gupta said that science journalist Catherine Price has a simple and important mantra that really resonates with him and how he approaches social media use: “The next time you go to pick up your phone, Price wants us to remember the three W’s: What for? Why now? What else?” Dr. Gupta explained.

“Once you notice your phone’s in your hand, you just ask yourself those questions: What did I pick it up to do? Then you ask yourself, Why now? What was that time-sensitive reason you picked it up?” Price told Dr. Gupta. “Sometimes you actually will have a reason, like it’s your friend’s birthday [and] you need to get a gift for them. Most of the time is going to be an emotional reason.”

Price shared with Dr. Gupta that “it doesn’t really matter what the answer is” to those questions. Rather, it’s simply about asking yourself the questions and taking a beat to answer them. Being mindful of why you’re turning to your phone can give greater insight into your use — and help you cut down on screen time.

“The point is just to make sure that when we’re using our devices or whatever apps are on our devices, it’s the result of an intentional choice instead of just our minds and our brains being hijacked,” Dr. Price shared.

This is a great parameter to consider when looking at your own social media use — and modelling screen time use for your kids. It can also inform the rules you set for your kids’ usage. Instead of placing a time restraint or scheduled “unplugging” hours, evaluating why you or your kids are using a device can help the whole family be more aware of how much you’re turning to the screen.

You can read Dr. Gupta’s full op-ed on CNN or listen to his podcast episode dedicated to raising kids in the digital age — because this is an issue new to all of us, and that previous generations of parents didn’t have to wrestle with.

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