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Big tech, lawmakers, and local schools take steps to monitor screen time and protect children

Akron Public Schools becomes latest district to implement phone locks
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Posted at 11:01 PM, Mar 12, 2023

CLEVELAND — Mom, Stephanie Miller, remains watchful when it comes to her kids screen time.

“Who doesn’t let them be on technology?" Miller said. "You know they can enjoy things, but it’s minimally because I like to keep their minds going in a more educated way, like imaginary play."

In February, Lieutenant Governor, Jon Husted, proposed the Social Media Parental Notification Act. It would require social media and gaming companies to get parental consent before kids under 16 sign up. Dr. Michael Manos, Head of ADHD at the Cleveland Clinic, said too much phone time, early on can be linked to anxiety and depression in children.

“The effort to limit screen time is certainly laudable and should have been done a long time ago,” said Manos.

The popular app, TikTok, is the most recent app to update its safety guidelines. Users under 18 are now granted an hour of screen time a day. The America Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than two hours a day for children two and above.

“I feel sorry for the parents who have to put up with their teenagers who are going to have only an hour of TikTok a day primarily because TikTok itself is designed to keep a person engaged,” Manos added.

Also, to combat excessive phone use, Akron Public Schools is soon implementing a new policy that uses Yondr pouches to lock students' cell phones. Other districts like Cleveland Metro and Warrensville already use the pouches. Miller’s kids go to Akron Public Schools and said the new policy gives her hope.

“My kids are little right now and getting ready to come up through the system and I really want it to set a good foundation for them,” Miller said. “I am all for them giving it a shot because learning is important and it can be a lot of fun if everyone makes the right environment for it.”

Doctors said only time will tell if changes with big tech, new proposed legislation, and schools will benefit children.

"Very young teenagers don't understand that they need these limitations, that they need supervision, that adults are still liable for their activities," said Dr. Carolyn Landis, Psychologist at University Hospital. "They just want free rein and we can't give them free rein because it's really not safe for their development."

In the meantime, doctors advise parents to continue setting boundaries or use screen time as an opportunity co-play or co-view.

“I have patients with anxiety of a depressed mood who love the music or to watch funny people on TikTok," Landis added. “So, I don’t want it to be just considered this bad thing because it can be very powerful and positive to a lot of children.

There’s also a push for more online safety in Washington D.C. Last month, senators tried to breathe new life into proposed legislation, like the “Online Children Safety Act.” The bipartisan bill introduced last March imposes online platforms to act in the best interest of minors and mitigate the harms of using its services.

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