Digital Detox: How Parents Can Encourage Social Media Breaks

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June 22, 2020

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Table of Contents

It's easy to lose track of time while scrolling through social media apps because they offer an endless stream of content. Many students, and parents, find themselves caught in the social media time warp. One way to reduce excessive screen time and encourage healthy online habits is taking a digital detox.

Digital Detox: How Parents Can Encourage Social Media Breaks by Josh Ochs

When April Whiting, mom of four boys, realized everyone in her family was addicted to screen time, she decided to take action. She put away all of the devices, including her own smartphone, for six whole months.

On this episode of Mom Talk on the Podcast April and co-host Jennifer Zumbiel discuss how to get your family to commit to a digital detox and the benefits that come from going device-free.

Watch April's TEDx Talk: "Abducted by Technology: Raising the Smartphone Generation"

April is determined to help other families find a healthy balance with technology. She was recently invited to give a TEDx Talk about her family's digital detox journey and how her children thrived as they reconnected with offline activities.

Learn actionable strategies to implement in your household

If you are a parent looking for help keeping your children safe online, listen in as Founder Josh Ochs chats with Jill Simonian, TV Host & Entertainment Journalist turned Parenting Lifestyle Contributor, about actionable strategies you can use in your household.

When does the habit of screen time addiction begin for students?

It is so easy to get overwhelmed as a parent, especially since screen time addiction can start as soon as a child is introduced to a digital device. Yes, toddlers can become addicted.

Many parents give children a phone or tablet to appease them at a restaurant, in a store, or in the car. It's an easy way to keep them quiet and entertained, but doing this each day can lead to screen time addiction.

You wouldn't give your child a candy bar for breakfast every single morning just because they want it. Consider treating screen time in the same manner.

What are some alternatives to screen time on long family road trips?

Instead of only relying on screen time on road trips, go old school. Have conversations with your children. Crank up their favorite music. Make up games for them to play (e.g. count how many trees we pass, find each letter of the alphabet on signs and license plates). However you decide to pass the time on a road trip, resist the urge to rely on devices.

Check out our list of 100+ Offline Activities for some inspiration.

The 4 C's of social media

Social media has two sides- good and bad.

There is the good side: connecting and communicating with friends, family members, and other creative people like you.

Then there is the bad side. Social media has an endless stream of content that can easily consume all of your student's time. The more time they spend on social media, the more likely they are to constantly compare themselves with other people.

As parents, it's important to help your students use social media responsibly and with the right intentions.

How can parents limit screen time?

  • Use the same apps your students are on to learn what kind of content is consuming their time
  • Set limits, not only for your kids, but also for yourself. Decide when everyone can use their devices each day and for how long

How can parents monitor their student while respecting their privacy?

Parents should respect their child's privacy. However, giving your child access to a device and not monitoring their activity is the equivalent of dropping them off in the most dangerous part of town without anything to protect them and saying, "good luck."

Some parents don't understand that giving a student a cellphone is the gateway to a lot of dangers, including screen time addiction, cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and more.

Parents should always be on the apps their children use. Know your student's passwords and keep track of what apps they're downloading.

Use Smart Social's Popular Teen App Guide to help you decide which apps are age appropriate.

It's also important for parents to be aware of the age restrictions of popular apps, like YouTube and Instagram (which don't allow users under the age of 13 create an account). Apps set age guidelines for a reason.

Teach your children to be intentional when they're online and on social media, and set guidelines for which apps are appropriate to use and which are not.

How can parents encourage their family to take a digital detox?

Try taking a social media break on the weekends. If going the whole weekend without social media seems too difficult, try going offline for one day, then build up from there.

Prior to your social media break, announce that you will be going offline and specify the length of time you will be offline. During your digital detox, delete social media apps from your phone and only check your email inbox from your work computer.

At first it might feel like you're missing out on something. It will get easier and might even become mentally freeing. Once you've finished your digital detox, add the apps back to your device.

  • Put social media apps on the last page so they're harder to access
  • Turn off notifications so you're not prompted to constantly open the app. It's important to remember that you don't have to respond to every notification right away
  • Utilize built-in screen time tools, like Apple's Screen Time, to track how much time each family members is spending on apps each day


Your students might not understand why they need a digital detox, but you'll be surprised by how happy everyone is once your whole family has gone without screens for a few days. Be patient with your children, set a good example, and communicate often. Your whole family will benefit from the experience.

Digital safety resources for parents

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