Ten Ways to Get Kids Off Screens

The author of Childhood Unplugged says resistance is NOT futile

Paul Greenberg
4 min readJul 11, 2023

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Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

As readers of this page know, I occasionally ask writers from various backgrounds to contribute their thoughts. This week’s essay comes from Katherine Johnson Martinko, the author of a new book called Childhood Unplugged: Practical Advice to Get Kids Off Screens and Find Balance. The book is just out from New Society Publishers.

If you are a parent to a school-aged kid, then there is a good chance you’re dealing with what nearly every other parent in the world is dealing with right now. You may be fending off the introduction of the smartphone or in the midst of “managing” its influence on your kid. It’s not a fun job, and I feel your pain. Digital media has made parenting hard in strange new ways.

As the author of a new book called Childhood Unplugged: Practical Advice to Get Kids Off Screens and Find Balance, and, perhaps even more relevantly, as the mother of three kids, I can empathize with this ongoing struggle to manage digital media in the family. I would like to offer some advice, honed during years of personal experience and professional research.

1. Just Say No

Kids have so few years to inhabit the play-filled, imaginative state that makes childhood special. Don’t rush them out of it by giving them a device that allows them to disconnect from their immediate surroundings and access the worst of the world. I say, “Delay, delay, delay!” It’s OK to be different. Your kid has the rest of their life to be tethered to that device.

2. Start With a Dumb Phone

If you must communicate with your child, there is no need to give them an exceptionally powerful piece of technology. Give them whatever does the job, which could be an old-fashioned flip phone, sometimes referred to as a “dumb” phone. Check out devices like the Light Phone or the Gizmo Watch. Options abound.

3. Keep Your Kid Busy

This doesn’t mean overscheduling your life, but rather teaching a child to fill their time in ways that make a phone unnecessary for entertainment. Try exploring outdoors, reading books, doing crafts, playing sports, learning a musical instrument, or (gasp!) embracing boredom as…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org