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kid on his phone, illustrated warning sign and hourglass Digital Wellbeing

The Dark Side of Screen Time

Haley Zapal  |  October 31, 2023

kid on his phone, illustrated warning sign and hourglass

**This blog post was updated on May 23, 2024.**

By now, we all know about the studied effects of too much screen time — for both kids and adults! — and how it contributes to anxiety, depression, poor sleep, and so much more. But there are also less apparent side effects that are a little harder to quantify. 

This darker side of screen time disrupts social connections, makes it harder to interact with friends and family, and causes shifts in emotions and behavior that aren't always easy to spot. Here’s how to better understand how being glued to devices can impact your kids. 

Life Shrinks to the Size of a Screen

Remember that scene in Wall-E where the family goes into the restaurant and spends the entire meal staring in silence at their own phones? That movie came out in 2008 and it somehow predicted what would become commonplace in the next 15 years. When screen time becomes your entire world, it lessens how you interact with the real world — and that’s rough. Especially because for kids, life is about learning, discovering, and interacting with friends and family. 

FOMO is for Real

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is one of the natural byproducts of social media. Today, we can see on our phones where our friends and family are at all times thanks to location tracking apps. These are strangely popular with kids, as many share their location with besties 24/7. This can of course provide comfort that loved ones are safe, but it can also make you feel bad if you check one evening and find out everyone's hanging out without you. And this isn’t even to mention that you see after-the-fact photos from parties and hangouts on apps like Snapchat and Instagram. 

Curiosity is Quelled

The internet is good for many things, but having the answer to any question in the world at a second’s notice can dampen your sense of wonder at everything. There once was a time when you occasionally had to sit in uncertainty at any number of things — what time your pizza was going to be delivered, what the capital of Liberia is, or what a Husky/Corgi looks like (spoiler alert: it’s really cute).  Too much screen time can get kids addicted to constant stimulation and distraction, which limits how they interact with the wonders of the world around them — and there a lot!

Self-Esteem Takes a Major Blow

Even the healthiest, most resilient kids can be affected by the overwhelming amount of content they consume online, whether it's overly filtered influencers selling makeup or picture-perfect videos of happy families on vacation. The very nature of social media invites comparison, and this can be super affecting for teens and tweens caught in the awkward stage of growing up in the digital age. 

Tips for Limiting Screen Time

The first step to setting screen time limits is to sit down and talk to your kid about why they’re so important. It’s not because you’re a buzzkill or out to ruin their social life, it’s because you care about their well-being and want to encourage healthy boundaries. Growing up happens so fast, and you want them to have time being just a kid. We recommend downloading a tech contact — you can find a free one here! — and filling it out together. Be sure to really listen to your kid and allow them to provide terms and conditions, too, so it’s not entirely one-sided. 

Next, you’ll want to actually set the agreed-upon limits. There are free apps for setting them — like Apple Screen Time and Google Family Link — but their features are limited. 

If you’re looking for the most robust and customizable screen time scheduling features, check out our app or our phone. Bark lets you manage what your kid can access on the internet and when — helping you set healthy boundaries whether they're at home or on the go.

This could look like “No YouTube during the school day” or “Only music apps after bedtime.” You can even make different schedules for each child and every device! 

And when things get hectic, you can pause the internet anytime so your kids can take a breather. Who knows — you might even want to join them.

Wondering If Your Family Needs a Tech Detox?

You might be considering a tech detox after reading some of the harmful effects of too much screen time. Try taking our tech detox quiz to get some insight on whether this would be beneficial for your family.

Bark helps families manage and protect their children’s digital lives.

mother and daughter discussing Bark Parental Controls