The Vices of Devices

The dark side of technology has reared its head: What to do

Smart phones are great. We can connect with loved ones, prevent getting lost in a new location, translate our speech in foreign areas, and educate ourselves on more topics than we can possibly imagine. But just like a dark side to the web, digital devices have an ominous alter ego as well.

Adults on this planet far and wide have access to smart phones and tablets, and use them with abandon. Of present concern, along with the fact that excess use of these devices is detrimental to adults, is that this very same technology is also increasingly found in the hands of babes. And there is more than one reason that this is a notable concern. While it’s not an easy feat to control device use in our children, the effort is more than worth our time and attention; read on for some tips that may help with this ongoing battle.


How to Catch a Leprechaun

Get in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day with this fun book from the popular How to Catch series. Blending STEAM concepts with silly rhymes and engaging illustrations, this story will likely get the giggles going!

Recipe: Healthy Shamrock Shake

This recipe from the Chocolate Covered Katie blog, a healthy version of McDonald’s popular (and highly caloric!) Shamrock Shake, will satisfy that minty craving all season long. It’s super quick to whip up and incorporates healthy greens and satisfying protein. Slainte!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all our families that celebrate!

Time to Unplug

Strategies to manage children’s screentime

It’s hard to currently imagine what life would be like without constant access to a cell phone. Yet, many (if not most) readers remember with clarity the days when leaving the house to play with your neighborhood friends meant not returning until dusk, and being dropped off at the mall or group gathering came with the coins required to call your parents on a payphone when it was time to request a pick-up.

Directly comparing that reality to our current experience as a constantly plugged-in society is mind-boggling in many ways. How did we manage to navigate to unknown locations? (Maps.) How did we call for help in emergency situations? (We rushed to the nearest landline.) How did we entertain ourselves? (Self-reflection and actual conversations with humans.)

Having access to cell phones for travel, emergency and education can certainly be considered advantageous, but its increasing use for entertainment and “social” connection has also created a number of downfalls and concerns for the well-being of younger generations, in particular. Picture a teen pouring over their cell phone, a middle schooler nose-deep in a tablet, even a toddler with a phone in their cute, pudgy hands as their mom tries to keep them quiet in a grocery store. At some level, we as a society know that this is a problem. And yet, while awareness of the many negative effects of cell phone use has arguably increased to the level of general knowledge, it does not always translate to appropriate action. Why? Well, in the simplest of terms…it’s not easy.

Think again of those young ones engaged in their electronic device of choice, and now imagine the full-on outburst of anger that results when you remove said device from their grasp. It’s easy to picture, isn’t it? That’s because most parents have been there. And when the demands of parenting can already drain our patience and sanity, a glowing screen can often seem like a Godsend and we rationalize its

    use yet again.
    So, as well-meaning parents who truly want the best for our kids, what do we do? How do we remove the screens but keep the peace? The short answer is: We may not get both. At least not when we initially begin to establish hard and fast rules about device usage, or we are inconsistent in the execution of a plan. However, practicing limitations in device usage is important for our child’s long-term mental and emotional health, and more and more studies are revealing this truth.

    As a recap of current research, some of the detriments of cell phone use include:

    Negative impacts on cognitive skills

    • Mentally derails individuals from important tasks (which can be life-threatening, such as when driving)
    • Can reduce cognitive control, academic performance and socioemotional functioning*
    • Can shorten attention span

    Impaired social skills

    • Lack of interpersonal connection in face-to-face interactions

    Increases chances of sleep deprivation

    • Use of phone before bed is particularly troublesome on circadian rhythms important for sleep

    Negative mental and emotional health effects

    • Smartphone and social media have been implicated in mental distress, self-injurious behavior and suicidality among youth*
    • Social media use can lead to social comparison and negative self-views

The following tips may be helpful in managing the presence of screens in your child’s everyday lives—after all, phones are going nowhere anytime soon, so we must acknowledge the negative impacts that phones can have and mitigate damage as much as we possibly can. Our children’s well-being depends on it.

Limit your own use

If it’s difficult for you to put down your phone when your child attempts to get your attention, imagine how challenging it is for a child, especially for those at an age when the line between fantasy and reality is already hard to distinguish.

Keep devices in a public space

Keeping tablets and kids’ phones in a space that you can see and monitor accordingly increases the likelihood they will be used according to the terms you established.

Discuss expectations before use

In a calm, non-judgmental tone, ask your child what they would like to do/watch on the device, then discuss when a good end-marker would be (such as at the end of an episode or level).

Incorporate device-free times

Establish times when devices are off-limits, such as during family dinners, directly before bed, or when company is over.

Install an app that limits screen time

Many apps currently exist that monitor duration of screen use for you; use them to your advantage!

Have family game nights

Choose a night or two per week when your family can engage with each other without the distraction of devices. Choose games that are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level, grab some snacks and be open to the possibility that this seemingly corny pastime can be incredibly fun!

Get outside

Sometimes the easiest solution to nixing screen time is to make your way out into the great outdoors. While Midwest winters don’t always make this easy, it could be as simple as gathering snow for a sensory bin, walking around the block, or blowing bubbles on the porch (bonus points if they freeze!)

Read actual books

While many schools have progressed to work and reading assignments on a tablet, be sure to create breaks from these and encourage actual book handling and reading—ideally every single day.

Keep ‘em busy!

Enroll your child in activities such as sports, art classes, etc.; it will keep their brains engaged, their dopamine levels activated and their social skills sharpened.

Set expectations and enforce them

This may be the most challenging guideline of all; but it’s arguably the most important. And be sure that any and all caregivers are practicing the same limitations to establish and maintain consistency.

Calling All Accomplished Kids!

(We think you all are, by the way)

Each month, we would love to feature a child or two on an accomplishment that deserves to be shared with our CTC clan! Whether it be a well-deserved grade on a tricky test, a communication breakthrough, a role in a school play, an overcome fear, a new physical milestone—the list goes on and on—we want to hear about it and celebrate it in our monthly newsletter.

Please email with a description of your shout-out and your child could be featured!

* Abi-Jaoude, E., Naylor, K. T., & Pignatiello, A. (2020, February 10). Smartphones, social media use and Youth Mental Health. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne. Retrieved February 28, 2023, from

Content of this newsletter was written by:
Megan A. Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP

Please contact Megan with any questions or comments at: