As the young child of a Millennial, you have surely noticed by now how grouchy mom or dad become if they get less than their standard 15 hours of screen time per day. However, recent studies have found that too much screen time for parents can be harmful to their development and lead to low self-esteem, short attention spans and a constant desire to dress you in outfits that are “optimized for engagement across a variety of social media platforms,” whatever that means.
Here are a few tips for keeping the number of hours they spend staring at their phones in the single digits:
Be More Interesting Than Whatever Is On Their Screens
This might seem hard at first, given that your parents’ phones have access to virtually every image, game, and piece of information that has ever existed, whereas your skills at this point are basically limited to walking and being able to sort of stand on your head for three seconds but only if your feet are still on the ground. However, you do have one huge advantage over their screens: a direct and genetic link to their vanity.
If you start doing a vague approximation of something your parents do (other than staring at a screen), they should be reminded enough of themselves and find it cute enough to put away their phones and look at you instead. The only problem is that if you do this thing for too long, they’ll take their phones right back out and try to film it. If and when this happens, just remember that time they made you try cauliflower, and shift to temper tantrum mode.
Don’t Buy Into Their Excuses
Oftentimes, mom or dad will insist that the only reason they need so much screen time is because of their jobs. While it is true that certain aspects of their work require a laptop or smartphone, even just a quick look at their screen will show how much time they are spending on non-work related activities like updating their fantasy football roster, shopping, or updating their other fantasy football roster.
The best way to confront them about this is with a nuanced and thoughtful discussion about screen time they need versus screen time they want, but if your verbal skills haven’t quite reached this level yet, you may want to just smash a bunch of their keyboard buttons instead.
Cyberbully Them Until the Mere Thought of Going Online Is Enough to Send Them Into a Tailspin of Panic and Self-Loathing
It’s called tough love, OK?
Get Them Out of the House
Oftentimes, parents just default to playing with their phones because they are stuck at home with nothing else to do, apart from maybe taking care of their children. Getting them out of the house is a great way to break up this monotony, although you will have to be careful when choosing your destination.
If you pick a place that is too photogenic or will make you look too adorable, they will end up spending most of the trip trying to take photos of you, defeating the whole purpose of leaving the house in the first place. If you pick a place that is too boring, they will be back on their phones within seconds of arriving.
Your best option would be an entertaining but unremarkable playground where you can repeatedly take trips down the slide, taking care not to smile too much lest your parents decide they need to resume taking pictures. Have fun!
Write a Think Piece, and Ask Them to Read and Share It
There is no faster way to get someone to claim their phone is broken and their WiFi is out than this.
Make Your First Words “I Want to Be an Influencer”
This is one of those high risk/high reward scenarios. Ideally, the shock of hearing this as your first words rather than, “I love you mama” or even just, like, “doggy,” will be enough to make your parents worry they are setting a bad example for you by staring at their phones so often and start using them less.
However, there is also a chance that they will love this idea and quit their jobs immediately to spend all of their time building up and monetizing your personal brand, which will require a lot of screen time by necessity.
So it might be best to use this one as a last resort.