The notion of “screen time” has exploded during the pandemic, with thousands of kids and teens spending hours each day on remote learning. Sometimes it can feel like all time is screen time. “It’s not realistic to only think your kid will have two hours a day, but you can break it into chunks,” says Titania Jordan, who has co-authored the new book “Parenting in a Tech World” (IRL Publishing) out Tuesday, with her colleague Matt McKee. “After two hours, there needs to be a break. Then two hours, then a break.”
Jordan and McKee work at Bark Technologies, a social-media and screen-time-management company that serves more than 5 million children at home and is used by more than 2,300 schools nationwide. (The service is free for school districts, where it can be used to monitor activity on school devices.) The technology uses artificial intelligence to scan social media, e-mail, text messages, emoji, etc. and alert parents and caregivers when there are problems.
“This can include things like cyberbullying, predators, mental health issues,” Jordan says. “Bark will flag it and send you a snippet, then give you the best recommended next steps.”
Bark recently reported a 123 percent jump in emergency calls made to parents and schools related to suicidal ideation from July to August alone, a troubling sign of how difficult this time has been for children and teens.
While the focus might be on technology, the tools for dealing with it are reassuringly old-school. “No technology can replace effective and engaged parenting,” says Jordan. “You have to let them know that if there’s anything they’ve encountered online that they’re uncomfortable with, they should talk to you about that.”