By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/LEPISODE 102


Screens have become such a hot topic in parenting, and such a source of guilt and confusion for many parents and caregivers. I’m so excited for you all to hear the wisdom of someone uniquely qualified to speak about this topic.

Ash Brandin, EdS

Ash Brandin, EdS (they/them) has been a public school educator for over a decade. In that time they found innovative ways of using student interests, including video games, to increase engagement and make learning more fun and effective. Since February 2021, their Instagram page, @TheGamerEducator, has helped tens of thousands of families make screen time beneficial for the whole family. Ash believes screens should be part of our lives, not the center of our lives, and helps caregivers navigate the world of tech using consistent, loving boundaries. In their free time, Ash loves to hike, bake, play video games, and spend time with their family.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

What does the research say?

You’ve probably seen some scary headlines about research studies showing that screen time is terrible for kids. Ash tells us that looking beyond the clickbait headlines can often show us that the scary claims may not be the whole story. And in Ash’s experience, there are often additional studies that show the opposite conclusion from the inflammatory headline.

So what is a parent to do?

Viewing screens as “morally neutral”

Think about the message we send to our kids about screens when we try to minimize screen time. We’re inadvertently assigning a negative moral value to it, and that can complicate our relationship to screens as a helpful tool.

But when we treat it like any other part of our day, then we can have screens be a part of our lives, and not the center of our lives.

And that’s the goal.

Some families may find it best to not use screens at all, but for most families, it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. There are ways to make screen time work for your family, even if it’s a challenge right now.

Strategies for managing screen time boundaries

Ash gave us some ideas to try when screen time is causing problems.

  1. Change one variable.

    If you’re noticing that the difficulty with screen time is the transition, first of all let’s not blame the game itself. There is little to be gained from this endeavor. Instead, we can do some experimenting, problem-solving. Change one variable about the setting for next time. Was there enough warning time? Is there something to transition to? Is your child hungry? Tired? Overstimulated by other sounds in the house? We can even try to problem-solve with our children to figure out if there’s a way to make the transition easier.

  2. Make the end of screen time more defined.

    Oftentimes we’ll tell our kids “5 more minutes.” But what does this mean to a child when they’re playing a game or watching a show? Time limitations aren’t as useful as other measures, such as “one more race,” “finish building that house,” “after two more battles,” “after this song is over.” Your child can finish a task and even write down the task that they’re going to do next to help with that transition.

    It’s also important that we’re aware of how the game they’re playing works. Some games will only let you save your progress at certain points, so stopping at a time when the game can’t be saved would be really tough for kids.

  3. Hold the boundary firmly, neutrally.

    Are there times when it’s appropriate for the caregiver to take the controller out of the child’s hands, take the iPad, unplug the TV? Ash says it depends. Is the refusal to end screen time a recurring behavior, or is it a one-off? If we decide that it needs to be done, we can tell our child, “Would you like to turn it off, or should I?” We’re giving the child a choice, but both choices lead to the screen being turned off.

    It’s important to remember that it’s hard to stop fun things. When it’s hard to leave the playground, it’s not the playground’s fault, and the same goes for video games and tablets and TV. We can empathize with our children that stopping fun things is hard for everyone, and if the skill is not yet developed, they may need our help, and that’s okay.

Ash is so full of wisdom, and this conversation dove into some helpful specifics like…

And so much more! Listen to the episode for all of Ash’s wisdom about these topics!

Did you know I worked with Pokpok to help them create a more neurodiverse affirming and sensory friendly space on their amazing app? Liliana and I love Pok Pok. It’s open-ended, exploratory, and the graphics and music are beautiful (and a lot friendlier on the eyes and ears than other games). Use my discount code 25OTBUTTERFLY for 25% off this wonderful app!

Episode Links

Making screen time work for your family with Ash Brandin, EdS
Speaker 1 0:00 Everyone deserves leisure, including kids. And it's okay. If screens are just leisure. Everybody deserves leisure. That said, when we recognize that there could be deeper involved critical thinking going on in the entertainment games our kids like to play, we can help make those connections. Laura Petix 0:28 Welcome to the...

Speaker 1 0:00 Everyone deserves leisure, including kids. And it’s okay. If screens are just leisure. Everybody deserves leisure. That said, when we recognize that there could be deeper involved critical thinking going on in the entertainment games our kids like to play, we can help make those connections. Laura Petix 0:28 Welcome to the sensory wise solutions podcast for parents, where parents can get real actionable strategies to support kids with sensory processing disorder. I’m Laura, OT and mom to Lilyana, a sensory sensitive kid who inherited my anxiety and my love for all things Disney. Consider me your new ot mom, bestie. I know my stuff. But I also know what it’s really like in the trenches of parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Okay, mom, enough about me. Let’s try the podcast. Welcome to the podcast everyone. Today, my main objective is to normalize screentime use in whatever way works for your family. I know as parents we are constantly bombarded by a list of shoulds and shouldn’t, and really big click baity headlines that really create a lot of fear and guilt among parents. You really see this for almost every childhood concern, but I see it a lot about screen time. And in 2024, we’re definitely not decreasing our kids exposures to screen. So let’s lean into it a bit and really find out do we need to stress about limiting screen time? Are there differences between the kinds of screens our kids are using? And what does this say about neurodivergent kids? And how does this change for neurodivergent families. We’re going to cover all of this in today’s episode, but I’m definitely not doing it alone. I have invited one of my longtime Instagram pals ash Brandon from the gamer educator. They have been a public school educator for over a decade, and in that time, they found innovative ways of using student interests, including video games, to increase engagement and make learning more fun and effective. Since February 2021. Their Instagram page the gamer educator has helped 10s of 1000s of families make screen time beneficial for the whole family. Ashe believes screens should be part of our lives, not the center of our lives, and helps caregivers navigate the world of tech using consistent loving boundaries in their free time ash loves to hike, bake play video games and spend time with their family All right, let’s get into the episode. All right here we are ash it’s so good to have you on the podcast. It’s so good to interact with you live I feel like we I feel like I know you sent me a small world popcorn bucket from Disney. Thank you. I have that I’m staring at it right now in front of me so you have a special place in my heart for going across the world and including me in your in your purchases. Disneyland Tokyo. Speaker 1 3:23 It really is a fond memory actually. I will remember like a scavenger hunt Laura Petix 3:28 and it came with some very delicious different flavored popcorn I remember you said it was like Speaker 1 3:34 yes that was that flavor was it was some sort of like raspberry cheesecake kind of flavor. Laura Petix 3:41 I think doesn’t and Tokyo has the best merchandise and I’m always so jealous of people yeah, Speaker 1 3:48 there I totally get there were some pop other popcorn buckets that I was beginning to totally want could not have fit would not use them. But I totally get it they Laura Petix 3:59 well i i am forever grateful that you took up precious space in your luggage on the way home to bring that to me. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Well, we are not talking about business today. We are talking all things parenting and managing screen time and I have the go to person here with me to ask these questions and have this discussion. Ash, can you share a little bit about how you found yourself in this in this specific niche? Maybe what piqued your interest in it to begin with and then how you started to create more content relating to this on Instagram and social media. Speaker 1 4:39 Yeah, so for people who are new to me, I’m Ash My pronouns are they them and I live on Instagram at the gamer educator and I am a I’m a career educator. I teach middle school and I’ve taught like pretty much everything I started as a music teacher. I taught social studies and math and I currently work as a librarian. So I’ve worked Got a lot of hats. And I kind of got into this space from education, I had devoted a lot of time during my master’s degree to looking at the use of, or the potential use of commercial video games in a music classroom. That was when Guitar Hero was really popular. So I’m really aging myself. Yes. And after I did that research, and I really didn’t find a lot of uses of it, or at least a lot of published uses of it, I decided that I wanted to try things in my classroom, not so much of like, literal uses of video games, but really looking into what is it that’s going on in terms of the structure of these games, like, psychologically, that is so motivating. And I knew that feeling as someone who enjoyed video games myself. And so I started trying to find ways of putting that into my classroom mostly in like structure, like curriculum structure and lesson design structure. And I liked, I liked what I found, and I kind of presented those ideas, it conferences, mostly like video game centric spaces, because people were more open to that. And that was kind of at and when the pandemic began, I realized that that part of my life was kind of on hold, I wasn’t gonna be going to bed anymore. And that was just the push I needed, I think to get online, I thought about it for a while, but just couldn’t really decide if it was something I wanted to do. And that was kind of a push. And when I initially went on to Instagram, I thought, Oh, it’ll just, it’ll just be like what I’m already doing. And it’ll be really centered around education and educators because I kind of naively thought, well, parents see their kids playing games all the time, like, they must already be fine with it, they must already like be okay, and see the value in it, because it’s in their house all the time. And then really quickly, I was like, that’s not true. Yeah, we’ve Laura Petix 6:59 got a lot of inner demons, we’re fighting as parents against this screen time and technology. So Speaker 1 7:05 for sure. So that was when I realized like, Okay, this is, this is a different niche than I thought, and in many ways, is a lot bigger than I thought. And realized that there wasn’t a voice in this space that felt realistic, I guess, where that felt. There wasn’t a voice in the space that seemed to consider adults in the conversation and be realistic about what the current needs or demands of parenting actually are. And I think that that has become a real central kind of tenant and what I do and so yeah, that’s, that’s kind of how it all began. And it just kind of grew from there, Laura Petix 7:52 I find myself in the same place where we have a lot of research, and the research gets put out there and clickbait headlines, and scares a lot of parents off. And so, but it’s really something where, you know, I want to be mindful of the research and say, okay, sure, there’s research here. And we take that into consideration in terms of how it impacts development. Yet, there’s not a lot of research on what parenting looks like in 2023, or 2024. And how that can also impact from another perspective. And so the practicality of things, and the merging of our worlds of education, research, practical, and then like some clinical knowledge that I add to it as well is so important. So I really, really enjoy your posts where you can, where you share how we can think of screen time, just as we do food, like how we can set the same boundaries around that. Could you give the audience a little example, I think it was a real that maybe you had done over summer of how you set boundaries around screen time, just as you would meal time. You give us that example? Yeah, I Speaker 1 9:02 really do like the parallel to food because I think food is something that a lot of like current parents realize, like, oh, maybe this is something that I want to handle a little bit differently in my parenting than what I experienced growing up. And I think that there’s a lot of parallels there with technology, because for many reasons, but one of them is it’s also very different now. And we’ve seen a big push for a lot of neutrality around food, that there isn’t good food or bad food, and that you know, all food and all bodies or it can be good bodies and good food. And then it’s really, you know, putting more of that on our kids to be able to figure out what their body needs and listen to their body. And I liked drawing on that parallel because I think it helps separate the feeling of morality that often comes up with this. There’s not morality to food. And there also is not morality to screens. And I think a lot of adults, whether or not they’re always aware of it, are actually putting a lot of moral weight on screens. And that I think is often their hang up this feeling that if I as an adult or as a caregiver, I’m using screen time, then that must be bad, and must be a judgment or like a bad moral failing of my parenting, like, I must be not a very good parent, if this is what I’m doing. Because they could, my kids could be doing something better. That’s kind of always where we go. And that assumption that they could be doing something better, is only possible if we put moral weight on the screen. And if we assume that there is like a moral weight to things we do for leisure. So in that food comparison, it’s like, okay, when we are the parents are in the meal, you know, we talked about division responsibility with food, which I don’t know a ton about. But I know the basic model, and it’s, you know, adults decide what served and when and kids decide how much to eat. Yep. And kids also get to decide how they feel about what served, right, they can complain that it’s not their favorite food. And that doesn’t change what we offer. Yep, we can say this is what’s available, and you don’t have to eat it. We’re giving them the control over listening to their body and deciding what to do with what’s available. And we’re also not, we’re not making everything they demand of us, right. So there is that division of responsibility and some boundaries. And similarly, with technology, we can decide what’s available, and when, and our children can decide what they do within the screen time that’s allowed. And they also can decide that they don’t like what’s available, or how much is available or when it’s no longer available. And that really is that’s their job. That’s their responsibility. I love Laura Petix 11:56 that reframe it makes it it, it makes it so much easier to understand it that way. How do you answer questions from parents when they ask things about? About, like, the research that shows that, you know, screens are associated with certain developmental concerns and challenges? I think there was a recent one that I even saw recently, I think you and I had had shared this on Instagram, called the title was early life digital media experiences and development of a typical sensory processing. So there’s lots of different research articles out there that say, associated screen time use. Screen time uses is associated with challenges and so and so areas, how do you help parents become critical thinkers about these pieces of research? And what’s your overall take away from the research about screen time? And what do we actually know about it? Speaker 1 12:56 Yeah, from the kind of shortest way I can put it as that, for every article, like for a lot of the studies that come out that find these quick, like, supposedly negative associations, there will almost always be a counter piece that tends to say the opposite. And we don’t always hear them equally. Sometimes we do sometimes we don’t. There is a recent study, not as recent as someone you’re quoting, but from about four months ago, from The Ohio State University that was looking specifically at excessive screen time I saw in my research, yeah, yeah, it was looking at excessive screen time in preschoolers, and specifically late at night, which is like, Oh, also not a best practice was, obviously, it was looking at impacts on their academic development later in life. And I think also behavior I can’t remember for sure. And it found absolutely no association, like not even a correlation. And a lot of these studies are correlation studies, meaning x is happening and y is happening in a similar relationship. So that study came out and found no relationship. And it was really looking at families facing oppression, marginalization, families in poverty. And what I loved about that study is that the study authors specifically called out these systems they said, you know, if we’re really concerned with excessive screen time, we need to be giving families help. We need to be giving them you know, accessible after school before school care and meal help and child care help, because that is what will reduce the screen time demonizing the screen time will not reduce the screen time. There was another recent study that was done by a major author in this area, and it looked at 1000s may have been 10s of 1000s of kids and their technology use and also did not find any significant negative outcomes in major parts of their lives. I’m not gonna be more specific because I shouldn’t read all this was civics. But yeah, the study that you mentioned, I was really interested about hearing your take on that too, because it definitely, when I read just the synopsis of it, it definitely mentioned, you know, aspects of sensory processing that like, to me don’t really mean anything like I don’t really know what they mean. Laura Petix 15:15 And access the full the full. Didn’t get to read it too much. But I remember, before I even spend time reading it, I always look at what they’re qualified, like, what did they study? And you had mentioned they were only looking at TV and DVDs. Right? Yeah. Which Speaker 1 15:30 is really weird. Yeah, in 2023. That’s pretty weird. Yeah. But I think that’s important to note, because any more like, if you read a headline and sunscreen use, yes. Immediately, what are you going to think as a parent, you’re going to think Laura Petix 15:45 you’re going to see the screens that you use the exact same Unknown Speaker 15:48 fashion? Exactly, you’re Laura Petix 15:49 going to fill in whatever you Yeah, exactly. And these, the, like I said, these articles are, the articles themselves are not accessible to everybody. And even if you could get your hands on it, if you are not well versed in the literature, or know how to read them, it means like nothing. So then parents rely on like, Good Morning America, to like to fill in the gaps. And to summarize, in a very, very watered down way where you’re not getting the full context. And then we make our next decision based off of that, right. Speaker 1 16:24 So particularly sorry, particularly with studies like like this, and I would say studies like this are pretty common studies that are looking at the relationship of technology use two aspects of neuro divergence, and neurodiversity. So that in particular, like really irks me, I’m sure it does for you, too, because the implication there is that there’s this outside causal factor. And, you know, I can’t speak to whether that is possible with sensory processing, I know you can. But you know, with things like autism or ADHD, you know, environmental factors are not causing those things. And there’s an absolute ableist component to talking about them in that way. And there’s just such a fear mongering component for parents, because if you have a child who seems to have difficulties with sensory processing, or seems to have ADHD, if that’s your reality, now, no amount of, of torturing yourself in the past over whether or not you let them use screens, that’s not going to change your reality now, and all it’s going to do is make this parent feel like it’s all their fault for the rest of their child’s life. And that doesn’t, doesn’t enable any that doesn’t Empower anyone. And I just think that that’s such a disservice to families. And I also think that idea that we’re trying to find this like culprit for something that is really just the way people experience the world, there’s just such an ableist component to that, that really, really just bothers me. Laura Petix 18:09 The other the, what I want, I would love for you to explain or kind of elaborate on is I love that part of your bio, where you say that part of your mission or your belief is that screens should be part of our lives, not the center of our lives. And to help caregivers navigate the world of tech using consistent loving boundaries. What does that look like to have screens be part of our lives are not necessarily the center of our lives. Speaker 1 18:40 I’m gonna go back to that I have like moral neutrality. And I think that a lot of caregivers in an effort to make technology a minimal part of their child’s life, whether or not they are aware of it there inadvertently or maybe inadvertently, actually putting a lot of moral weight on technology, because if I am trying to minimize something, because I feel that it might, I don’t know, it’d be bad or not the best use of my child’s time. That can easily go to a place of feeling kind of scarce, like scarce resource for a kid, this feeling of like, oh, well, I’m not allowed this thing very much. So I really, really want it now and I don’t know what I have to do to get it so I have to try really hard and I should try begging and I should try crying and and then parents give in and then the kid doesn’t know when they’re gonna get it again. So they whine and complain and cry more. And then the parent is like, I knew it. It’s the screens fault. I shouldn’t have done this and then they restrict more and then it’s this vicious cycle just makes it worse and worse and worse. And again, a lot of that is because we are putting something on screens. We’re putting this association And on them. And thus, we want to minimize them. And I completely understand why we do that. But the reality is not all parts of our days or our child’s days are the same in terms of the importance of what they do, you know, like, everyone, you know, for some people, bath time is gonna be more important than, you know, a meal together or whatever, like, every family is gonna have these kind of different rankings of things, but we don’t necessarily put like moral weight on them, right, they’re just parts of our day. And when we are able to step back and just have screens be a part of our day or a part of our lives, then they become just an everyday part of life, like, the other kind of mundane parts of life, like going to the playground and bath and books and whatever. And then it also becomes easier to hold boundaries around them. Because if I’m holding, if I am thinking of this as just, oh, yeah, it’s, it’s time for you to have independent playtime, because it’s whatever. Sure time we normally have that. And then oh, yeah, now it’s time for some screens, will I make lunch? If those things feel just equal in terms of routine parts of our day, then, if a kid has a hard time ending screens, if I’m just thinking, oh, yeah, I’m gonna hold the boundary around this the same way I would, if they didn’t want to leave the playground, then there’s not this feeling of that you’re feeling this way because of the screen. And that must, therefore this is a mark on me as a caregiver as a parent. So I think taking the morality out of it really helps keep it more neutral, and also makes it easier to enforce, in my opinion, that helps Laura Petix 21:43 me like not second, guess why I’m doing a certain boundary around it. Could you help differentiate the different kinds of screen time? And maybe what that look, because I know, you know, we’ll talk about difference between iPads swiping games, we’ll talk about videos, we’ll talk about the switch. We’ll talk about face time, there’s a lot of different kinds of screen time. Do you have any, what’s your take on, you know, one being a more appropriate, less appropriate? Like, and how do you manage that in your household and recommend others? Speaker 1 22:24 The the only one that kind of lives on its own in terms of, you know, what, like official organizations and such will say about it is like FaceTime as video chatting. Even in recommendations made by organizations, you know, they will say that, even under age two, that video conferencing is okay, because it is essentially the same as talking to someone in person, you know, you’re having a conversation. So that kind of is its own kind of a separate thing, right? Yeah, that’s kind of a separate thing. But then, within this huge realm of screens, as you’re saying, there’s myriad different things and ways of interacting with them. And this is where I think it’s really important to think about and notice what, like, what affects you notice with your kids, and also, to be able to think about the need that you are using screen time for. As I mentioned, at the beginning, I didn’t feel like people were in this space, were talking about the role or needs of an adult, when it comes to the use of screens. And I think that that’s really, really important because the reality is screens are often filling in a need for an adult who’s using the screen. And that doesn’t mean we want to ignore the child in that situation. Of course, we don’t. But you know, if my need is I have to be in a meeting and I cannot be bothered, then you might want something that’s going to like engross your child and that they might not need your help, and it might keep them quiet. And so like for your kid that might be a movie. And for another kid that might they might not have enough attention span because of their age or just how they are and they might not be able to focus on a movie for more than 10 minutes so for them an app might work a lot better because it will keep them in grossen engaged. And you know some people will say that you know, the passive screen time, like a TV like TV or movies on the one hand it’s passive there’s less movement there’s less like technical engagement. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Is what some people right Yeah, right. And it’s so funny because I feel like you’ll hear people say that like oh, it zoning out but then I feel like you’re off. So hear about apps like oh, they’re too fast paced, and it’s like well Laura Petix 24:57 too fast paced and addicting and the dopamine system Exactly right. There’s something for everything. Right? And Speaker 1 25:03 it’s like, okay, well, apparently, again, we can’t win. So it’s a feeling. But yeah, for some kids that more passive, you know, some, some people might feel like, Oh, well, they’re having to focus more, it’s a longer plot, it’s gonna keep their body calm, maybe that’s what you need. And like I said, for others that might not work. Or maybe you do want something that’s going to encourage movement, maybe you have just dance for the Switch, because you because it’s freezing, and they can’t go outside. And this is how you’re gonna get in some movement. So I think it’s important to think about what need is the screen trying to address? And then how do we incorporate that. And the other thing is, the other reason I like to take the morality out of it, and really just notice things in your own household is that when I am just noticing, then I can think of the behaviors or things I might notice, as just data like is just information, like you were talking about with food. You know, if you noticed that a food seemed to be having some effect on your child’s behavior, yeah, then you can do something about that you can try who’s going to cut out this one snack or whatever, you can make a change. And if you notice a difference, great. And if not, oh, well, you can go back to it. Right? Yeah, we do the same thing with tech. You know, if I noticed that every time we try to end a certain show, it is just a giant meltdown, then, you know, if all I do is blame the show? Well, that does not that does not give me any strategies to try. It doesn’t give my kid any strategies to try. It doesn’t give me another way of meeting that need. And it also doesn’t make like, what am I gonna do tomorrow? Right? It doesn’t give me any solution. So instead, if I’m like, Okay, I cannot spend 15 minutes managing their meltdown, when I only got 30 minutes out of a screen to begin with. So what what can what is one thing I can try, right, I’m going to choose one variable that I can try and it might be five minutes less or a big activity for after a big sensory input before after, or, or moving into a different time of day and like choose one thing and see if it makes a difference to change? And if it does, great. And if not, you can decide, are we cutting that out of our lives for a while? Are we going to try another strategy? Laura Petix 27:28 I think that temper that that idea that whatever I try can be temporary is something I always need to be reminded of with whatever thing I’m trying for myself or my daughter, I’m like, Well, I’m not going to lose anything by just trying it out and seeing what happens. I also in the same way, when I coach parents through it, I say, you know, if screen time is causing more problems than it’s solving, then I agree there’s something to change. It doesn’t mean you need to be like a no screen household. But I’m curious if you have a certain chain of events of like what you try first, if you’re trying to help parents figure out how to make screentime work for their family, like let’s say right now, you know, if they came to you, and they’re like, You know what, Ash, my son is playing this game, this game this game, and transitions are always hard. He’s more dysregulated yet he loves and does not stop talking about Minecraft, Roblox, whatever. How can I what what is your chain of events for adjusting certain variables before they make any complete, like cutting things out? Speaker 1 28:30 That’s a great question. I’m gonna ruminate on this more Yes. For future. Yeah. That’s a great content for Laura Petix 28:39 Yeah, I get the question too. And then for me, it’s usually I’ll go through like, like you said, different kinds. Is it iPad in their hands? Or is the screen further away? And is it always after school? Or is it on the weekends? And you know, are they also you know, are they starving? And they’ll they’ll come home and play video games before they have their snack? Is the snack next to them, and they’re not eating it? Right. There’s a lot of things questions. I’ll go from a dysregulated perspective. Yeah, Speaker 1 29:06 for sure. And especially with screens, I mean, it can really depends, like, what kind of game are they playing? Are they playing something that has a really finite ending? Are they playing something like Minecraft, where you’re super engrossed, and it’s very open ended? And it’s really hard to get out? Right? So it can really depend you can get really in the weeds on it. But, you know, I kind of think like backward I feel like what I often hear is the transition out, that’s where I hear most people talking about it being Yeah, the hardest to transition out. Yes. So, okay, if you start just there, then it’s like, okay, what are we currently doing to aid the transition? Why are we giving a warning? If not, could we be right? And if we are giving a warning, could we change it? And to Laura Petix 30:01 be maybe a Speaker 1 30:02 little more aware of whatever they’re doing, right. So if they are, you know, if my kids playing like a racing game, instead of saying five minutes, like five minutes is kind of meaningless in the context of racing. Yeah, so that’s right. Instead, I’ll say you have time for one more race. Okay, well, race. Sure. Right. And so I can kind of make it a little more defined. Sure, kids, because even if they can tell time, in the, yeah, they’re not paying attention to them. Yeah. And Laura Petix 30:31 even if there’s a timer, it doesn’t help. But how do you do that for like, open ended games? Like you said, and I’m not familiar with a lot of video games. My daughter plays like two things. So if you could speak on that? Speaker 1 30:43 Yeah, for sure. So in an open ended game, what I think can be really helpful is, depending on the age of the kid, and depending, depending on you know, their their personality. You we can say like, what is the last thing you want to do? You have time to do one more thing, what is the last thing you’re going to do? Or you have time to reach a stopping place? What’s your stopping place going to be? And for kids who like Minecraft, especially you can get very, very engrossed in a project. And I do a lot of comparisons to school. Because, you know, often at school, you might be working on a really big project, and you kind of come and go from day to day, and you have to get to like stopping points along the way. And it’s really similar in that same idea. You’re working on this huge project. Oh, yeah. Building or whatever. Yeah. So Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead. Laura Petix 31:38 I was gonna say just reminds me of my daughter. We have this ongoing like, 500 piece puzzle. And it’s just Oh, yeah, we can always go back to it and then I’ll be stuck. And I’m like, I’ll be like, verbally say, I’m like, I think I’m gonna have to stop here. I think I’ve had enough for today. I don’t think I’m gonna finish Snow White’s dress today. I’ll have to come back to her like I will audibly say it out loud. But it is a hard stopping point when you’re like, I really wanted to finish the dress. But it’s like Speaker 1 32:01 modeling past. Yeah, the modeling is huge. I feel good people you can I don’t think you can model enough. And modeling the feeling right? You don’t have to literally play a video game. It sure it’s the feeling of like, I want to get this done. Yeah. And I have to go make dinner. So yeah, I’m going to put this piece right here, because this is the piece I’m working on. So the next time I come over, I remember this is where I left off. So it could be like I do this in video games, like I’m playing a lot of Zelda at the moment, which is very open. And I will literally, like leave myself at where whatever I’m trying to do next. Right? I’ll park myself outside something. Remember where you’re at? If it’s two weeks later, I’ll pick it up and go, Oh, okay, this is what I’m doing. So with kids, it’s like, Okay, what’s the what? What do you want to keep doing when you come back? Okay, how can we put you in a place where you remember that tomorrow? And you could even literally write it on a sticky note? Yeah, first thing tomorrow, you’re going to mine for iron. I’m trying to be my grade. I don’t know what it means. But I’ll go with it. Yeah, literally, like, put it on the switch, like stick it on there. Okay, this is what you’re doing tomorrow. So giving them a reminder of like, we we can leave this here because we know how to return to it. Giving a warning that is incorporating the style of what they’re playing. The other thing, particularly if you’ve if the difficulty with transitions is that it feels a little like boundary pushing, like maybe you said, Hey, you have five minutes. And then they start something that will obviously take more than five minutes. And then they’re like, Oh, well, I’m not done yet. And then what I will sometimes do is I will say like you have three minutes. Do you think like if you start a new race right now, you will not have time to finish? Yeah. So do you want to stop in the middle of a race? Or do you want to do something that will only take three minutes? So then I’m making clear, like, we’re ending in three minutes. And when you can, it’s up to you? Right? It’s up to you if we enter the middle of something, or at the end of something, and I know that’s really hard, like don’t get me wrong. Yeah, it is really hard. But some of it is, you know, working with them to find ways of ending that and also making it clear that that is one thing. And the other last thing I’ll say is having a really clear thing planned for after and it doesn’t have to be it doesn’t have to be like fun. Right? Our our screen time is always right before dinner. So it’s like we go straight from that into dinner. And I know my kid and my kids personality. So if I can just tell that they’re going to have a harder time. I know that I can always get them to the table if I if we race to the table, right? Sure. I’m like, Oh my gosh, I have to get to a tee Well, if you have a reason, I don’t know if I’m going to win and oh, yeah, time. Laura Petix 35:04 Oh, yeah, every time we all know our kids go to oral Unknown Speaker 35:07 feign ignorance on how to turn the controller off. Laura Petix 35:10 Oh yeah, Speaker 1 35:10 I have no idea how to turn that off to you know, and then all of a sudden, they get to show us something. And there’s so much they Laura Petix 35:16 love that my daughter loves pretending to control me as the character but she has to like push me like I’m like what you want and she’ll like move my button getting some sensory input like she loves that. Let’s follow that through though. So for other families who then they set the boundary and you know, you have three minutes, you could do this, and they don’t go through it. Have you ever had to? Or do you recommend parents actually remove the controller out of their hands? or unplug it from the TV completely turn off the TV like is that the next course of action? Speaker 1 35:51 Again, you know, your kid, and you can probably tell if this is like a repeating behavior, or if this is a one off, right? There are, you know, there are going to be times like certain games now. Like you genuinely can’t save in the middle of something, you really will lose progress. And like, again, if your child is trying this every single day, then that might be a behavior you’re trying to stop. If it really seems like a one off, then yeah, yeah, you might be flexible at that moment, knowing it’s not going to be forever. But if if this is something happening, recurring and you don’t want it to be happening anymore. Sure, then yeah, I mean, depends how hard you want to go in. But yeah, our the way we tend to phrase it is, would you like to turn it off? Or should I? Yeah. You know, yeah, yeah. And it’s still their choice. But the choice there is no, no, right? There’s no extension as an option. Right, exactly. Do it or I will do it. And in the past, mostly when my child was younger, like, yes, there, there were some were wrenching it out of your hand to moments. And does that feel good? The moment? Absolutely not. No way. But if you were to ask me, like, what, you know, what’s the thing I had to do that the most with, you know, like, physically removing my child from something when it’s hard. Like, honestly, it’s probably a three way tie between the grocery store and video games and playgrounds, right, we all have those things that are really hard to, like, remove them from, and that’s not the fault of those things. You know, it’s it might be the trigger of those things, but it’s not the cause. Setting it off, but it is not the underlying cause the underlying cause is it’s hard to stop fun things. Yeah, hard. Laura Petix 37:44 You would argue that you need more practice doing that rather than taking it away. Right exactly like Oh, playdates are so hard for you never take you on a playdate that actually would that would never teach your child the right the skill of that. Speaker 1 37:59 It really struggled to leave the playground, we wouldn’t say I’m never taking you here. But Laura Petix 38:03 again, that goes with a morality of parents defining screentime as a privilege. And like, you get to do this, you don’t have to have this I’m taking it away. And that’s when it goes down that cycle. Right. Speaker 1 38:14 And if you don’t want to hold on, you are tired of having to have that power struggle. Like, I’m not saying that no one should have no screen time. Like if that is easier for your family. And great. Go for it. Yeah, go for it. Yeah, but for most families, they there’s a need for that in some way. And so I seeing it as something that like yes, we’re still gonna have this be part of our lives. And so yes, this is just something that needs more practice. And I in those tough moments where I’m like, Oh, I’m really having to hold a boundary around this. I haven’t had this in like months or Yeah, for right, then. Like you said, it helps for me to to just think like, Okay, this skill is not all the way formed yet. Yeah. It’s not all the way developed yet. And today, they need my help with it. Yes. Laura Petix 39:00 Yeah. For families who maybe are starting screen time for the first time or have decided, You know what, I do want to use this as a tool I need to integrate this. Do you have any sort of for you personally, like a checklist or things that you look at when you’re looking for the right game? The right show the right screen time thing? Like do you have like a somewhat of a filter that you can share with us for parents who just don’t know where to start? I’m the same. I’m like, I think she could use a different game at this point. But I don’t even know what’s out there. And I don’t feel like playing all of the games to be honest to test them out. Speaker 1 39:39 Yeah, that is hard because some, like one of the easiest ways is to play it a bit. And I totally get why people don’t want to Laura Petix 39:49 answer one other thing even if I did want to play it. I don’t quite know what I’m looking for looking for. Yeah, right. Yeah, I know when I see a game like POC POC, our favorite. I like this is thing like this is like, but it’s unless it’s that obvious, I don’t know more of the red flags, so to speak about games are shut out for or screen. So if you have a general kind of list or filter that you want to call out of things to look for would be helpful. Yeah. Speaker 1 40:16 So the irony is that I think a lot of caregivers are quick to say yes to or download games that are free. totally get it, because they’re free. However, the problem with that is that if a game is free, like let’s think from the game companies perspective, they’re not making the game free out of altruism, right? They are, they are making the game free, because, but they still want to make money. So like, how is that a good business model, right, the way is a good business model is that they do what’s called microtransactions. Or ads, like they just run a ton of ads. The problem with ads is they’re unregulated. Even if a game is approved, for a three year old, the ads are very often not approved for the same age bracket. So that is its own issue. And then often those ads are for other not particularly well made free games. And so the cycle of life, but this one’s free, this one’s free, and the endlessly downloading, crash, you know. So that’s one thing. But microtransactions are exactly what they sound like, Oh, these really small, you know, one to $3 payments, to gain access to something else in the game, and totally depends on the game. Some of them are not necessarily predatory, you know, might be like, play levels one to 99 for free. But if you want more than that you pay, right, that’s, that’s pretty obvious. But other games kind of give you the feeling that if you actually want to do well, or if you actually want to have fun, you’d have to spend money. Yeah, fortnight is probably the most famous example of this. If you don’t pay for fortnight, you can’t save your character, you can’t customize your character, you get different amounts of in game currency every day when you log in. So there’s tons of almost hierarchical incentives to pay. And the reason this is really important is that psychologically, these are motivating in two different very different ways. If I pay for a game, I give them my 30 bucks, or whatever, for a video game, they have my money. So they have to make me happy to have spent it right. So that I don’t demand a refund, and so that I buy the next one. And so that motivation tends to be more intrinsic. They make me feel competent, they make me feel in control, they make me maybe feel like I can relate to other people. The game feels fully developed. And now I’m feeling just like good about myself, and I’m having a good time because I’m feeling accomplished. But again, that’s free, doesn’t make me want to feel that way. If they make me feel that way, I’ll never buy anything, that’s not a good business model. So instead, they make me feel like I would be having a little bit more fun or an easier time or a better time if I just spent money. And so that is what we call an extrinsic motivator, which is like a reward. And really in the in gaming, really, that’s more like gambling. Especially because sometimes it’ll be like, Oh, well, this, this sword will make you invincible. And then you get, actually, it’s not that great. And now you spent your money in that you kind of got that hit, and now you’re like, But now I’d have to spend more. And so now all of your attention is on the money spending piece and dopamine hits. Yeah, and so I free to play games are ones that we tend to avoid. Okay, and if you are unsure if it’s kind of a less predatory one or more predatory one. You if you look at the fine print, like in the App Store, if you kind of scroll to the bottom, some some games will have this disclaimer where it will say like there are, I can’t remember the phrasing and something like there are random variables or like there are, you know, purchases in this game maybe like random and that’s basically saying like, get a slot machine. It’s astonishing. Yeah, if you are wanting an easy way to find games that are not going to be structured that way. On Apple, iOS, they have something called Apple arcade and Apple arcade. It’s like five bucks a month. It’s really cheap. And there is a Google equivalent. I just remember what it’s called for Android. And for a game to be available in Apple arcade. It cannot have ads and it cannot Have microtransactions Oh, so that like, immediately makes the pool a lot. Okay, you know, if you’re in there, you’re like, Okay, well, at least I’ve, I’ve waited those out. Okay, before I even start, that’s really helpful. Laura Petix 45:14 I did, that’s great. And Speaker 1 45:16 you can often find like a free like, I have Verizon and I got six months of it for free. So you might even have like an incentive to try it for a bit and see if you like it. And then within there, you can filter by age, and then you can get a better sense. The other thing is Common Sense Media has a ton of reviews of apps and video games and, and shows. And I really like them because they are not, it’s not just like, Oh, it’s good for ages five and up, right are very specific, it’ll say like, this has this kind of portrayal of friendship, where it portrays, you know, this kind of name calling or this kind of interpersonal conflict. And it also allows reviews from caregivers and from kids, which I also like, because then you can kind of get a wraparound sense of, of what something is like. So I think those are some good ways to kind of get get started if you’re unsure. Down. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And then if you’re really looking for a video game, you can always look for, like, kids always want to watch people playing them on YouTube, to your advantage to watch somebody play Laura Petix 46:28 when it’s like, I rely on YouTube to prepare my kid for what everything is like. So my why not do that for a period? Last question, I kind of want to, I want to ask, because I hear this a lot parents will tend to if their star if like, Okay, we will do iPad, but it has to be an educational and academic app. And they’re so they will just search and there’s like a few big ones, right? That we know of that. And sure they’re teaching your scout your kid like reading skills and math skills, maybe. But there’s a lot of extra microtransactions, there’s a lot of extra rewards and tokens that come from every time they pass this level. And then there’s a lot of really not the best feelings when you get an answer wrong, and it has a big X when you get it. There’s a lot of other things that come with it. That I wish parents knew more about what we’re considering educational, which you can get from an open ended app and all the executive functioning skills and the social skills you can learn and the reading skills from reading the little, you know, their narratives and stuff. So what’s your spiel to parents who, who are maybe focusing too much on trying to try like those academic those, like, educational labeled apps versus trying something else that might be more unconventional, but still equally as valuable? Oh, yeah, Speaker 1 47:49 I would actually argue more valuable to be honest. So a lot of so here’s, I’ll say, academic apps or games, who is the target audience. And I will argue 30, our target audience is not children, the target audience is the adult. Because a kid’s not going to decide to download and pay for academic app of your choice, an adult is going to do that. So the game does not have to appeal to kids, it has to appeal to adults. So it is convincing the adult that the child is learning, it is not necessarily actually centering, what the child needs. And so even the tasks that a kid will do, they are tasks that an adult will recognize as educational, like you the adult, is the audience for that. And the problem is, is that real involved, critical thinking is often invisible. Right? We recognize that with like independent play, we’ll talk about how it kind of plays so important because of all the things they’re learning. But those are often things that, frankly, are kind of hard to recognize if you aren’t looking for them, right now a kid, a kid playing with blocks. And you know, we don’t necessarily look at that and be like, Oh, well, clearly, they know how to make a cylinder, right? I’m like, no, they, they couldn’t identify a cylinder and a geometry test. But they are building spatial reasoning, and they’re sharing cause and effect. And those are critical thinking skills. And without those skills, the surface level, quote unquote, academic things like knowing what a cylinder is. Those things really are meaningless unless you have the foundational understanding that comes from critical thinking. So an academic app that might be asking kids to, you know, match lowercase letters to their uppercase pairs, for example. A child could do that, and they could get every single one wrong and until they eventually just kind of get it right by accident. Yeah. And in that case, it’s like, okay, what have they learned? And the answer is, well, they haven’t technically learned anything, they have reinforced what they already knew or what they already didn’t know, right? If they didn’t know it, they probably don’t know it any better. Now, they just have kind of like, gotten through it. So I totally get why we want our screentime to feel, quote unquote, valuable. My five second soapbox on that would be everyone deserves leisure, including kids. And it’s okay, if screens are just leisure, everybody deserves leisure. That said, when we recognize that there could be deeper involved critical thinking going on, in the entertainment games our kids like to play, we can help make those connections. If I see their use of a screen, even if it’s being done for leisure, if I see it as valid, then I’m suddenly allowing myself to notice the things in it that connect to the rest of their lives. So if if I noticed they’re building something in Minecraft, and it looks just like, parked by our house, well, now I can talk to them about where did you get that idea. And I noticed that, you know, the tree was the right size compared to the bench or whatever. And then the next time they’re struggling with something in another part of their life, I can maybe draw a connection, I can say, okay, when you decided to build this in Minecraft, how did you decide how to start? What did you do first, and bring in that same set of skills and to the rest of their lives. And then they are realizing the kids are realizing that they have those abilities. Yeah. And they’re able to make that gap and bridge that gap. And then it becomes a place for connection, instead of a place for contention and power struggle. And that doesn’t mean we’re saying it’s the best thing they do with their time. But we can recognize its validity. And that allows us to connect with them over it and maybe use it to bridge into other things. Laura Petix 52:13 Such a good way to end up this episode, just like every other parenting. Every other child behavior or challenge we come across, the answer always ends up like the first part is changing. Our mindset shifts, what is important to us, why do we care about it so much? Can we let go of certain things. And all of a sudden, things that you were defining as a problem are no longer a problem. And it’s just so liberating, you’re like, Wait, I don’t actually have to worry about that. So I find parents need more explicit permission of things that you’re saying, let your kid play the things that, that bring them joy, experience the joy with them, get in their world and use that outside of the you know, outside of the video games, I see parents. I see more and more parents are trying to get into Pokeyman world and trying to really Yeah, I would have loved if my parents actually sat let me talk to them about Little House on the Prairie books. But you know, like, they didn’t want to hear it. So I try really hard when my daughter will like, show me something random that I don’t get on her game. But I’ll just try really hard to listen. But it brings up so much opportunity for connects for sure. For sure. Before you go, I would love if you let everyone know, again, where to find you maybe some exciting things that we can find on your page on your Instagram page, and any other resources that you want to share with us for parents trying to navigate the world of screens. Speaker 1 53:34 Yeah, I’m thanks so much for having me. It’s so nice to talk to you. And I live mostly on Instagram at the gamer educator. And there you can find helping screens and management and these kinds of reframes. And I do have a website, the gamer Not a ton on there. But I do have some longer form guides. For families that can be really helpful. Things like you know, setting up and using switch and Kindle devices. And also I have several long guides about YouTube. It didn’t come up in our conversation. But YouTube is often something that parents are really concerned about of how to make sure it’s safe. There. It is not instinctual. But there are so many ways you can actually make YouTube really locked down for kids. So I have several posts about that, that you can find on my website. And yeah, I’m happy to help however I can. Thanks for having me. Laura Petix 54:30 Thank you for being here. Ash. I’ll talk to you soon. All righty. If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider rating it and leaving a review which helps other parents find me as well. Want to learn more from me. I share tons more over on Instagram at the OT butterfly. See you next time. Transcribed by




Free Instant access to my Members Only Vault with Resources & Activities


Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *