Ah, summer! The season to unwind, rest, have some fun...and read.

For many, “beach reading” is synonymous with summer. But today much of that reading may be done on a screen. Surely, the use of technology in our culture has many, many advantages. However, too much of a good thing, or a good thing used poorly, is certainly not a good thing.

The iPhone debuted in 2004 and by 2012 smartphones were everywhere. Also in 2012, psychologist and researcher Jean Twenge found a sudden increase in teens’ symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors and suicide rates. In 2016, Common Sense Media did a study of teenagers who reported feeling addicted to their devices, feeling the need to immediately respond to texts and social media messages, feeling distracted, experiencing conflict and engaging in risky behavior.

Overuse can prevent children from developing critical social and emotional skills because of too much communication through a screen. Importantly, it’s the amount of screen time, not the specific content, which is correlated to higher instances of depression. A 2018 Pew Research survey found 45 percent of teens use the internet on a smartphone or computer “almost constantly” and 44 percent say their usage is “several times a day;” together that is 89 percent of our teenage population!

Parents can step in, set rules, influence their teens’ behavior and protect them from the addiction of screens. A few simple suggestions include: 1) setting usage limits 2) propose alternative activities 3) remove screens from bedrooms 4) designate spaces and times for screen use 5) model appropriate behavior! 6) plan family or volunteer outings and leave devices behind!

A 2018 Washington Post article quoted Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, saying he would keep children in his life away from social networks. And as far back as 2007, a Business Insider article quoted Bill Gates, then CEO of Microsoft, saying he didn’t allow his kids to have a cell phone until age 14. If the leaders of the technology industry are shielding their kids from devices, why shouldn’t the rest of us?