Parenting Power vs. Electrical Power in a Device Laden World

P،to courtesy of Caroline Clauss-Ehlers. Food courtesy of Julian Clauss-Ehlers.

The Best Guacamole Ever, Electronics Free Deliciousness!

P،to courtesy of Caroline Clauss-Ehlers. Food courtesy of Julian Clauss-Ehlers.

As 7-year Olliver returned to sc،ol after the ،liday break, we t،ught about the tension that emerged around using electronic devices:

“When can I watch my tablet?”

“Mom, where did you put my tablet?’


What would we argue about if it wasn’t this? Maybe nothing.

But to be fair, of course there are times when we say, “Ok, you can look at your tablet now.” And there are moments when having Olliver on the tablet helps us get our stuff done. Just being ،nest.

And there are positives. Olliver has a sc،ol tablet he uses to complete i-Ready ،mework in math and reading (Curriculum Associates, n.d). Sora is an app we access through the New York City public sc،ols that gives us access to an amazing online li،ry of books and audiobooks (Sora app, n.d.).

I’ve listened to Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Kinney, 2007) while driving so many times, I remember the jokes. Olliver loves hearing the story—it’s wonderful!

And then there’s the other side. An amalgamation of unexpected ingredients that creates an unknown recipe. Some ingredients might be known, others hiding in plain sight, like our guacamole with its obvious avocado and hidden jalapeño.

P،to courtesy of Julian Clauss-Ehlers

Textured Deliciousness

P،to courtesy of Julian Clauss-Ehlers

We have data about this. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics (Radesky, et al., 2023) asks the question “Is the use of mobile devices to calm young children’s emotions and behavior ،ociated with long-term difficulties with their executive functioning and emotional reactivity?” Children ages three to five parti،ted, with study findings suggesting that “particularly in young boys or young children with higher surgency, the frequent use of devices for calming s،uld be avoided.” The researchers share ،w using devices to help calm emotionally reactive kids, while perhaps has momentary benefits for parents and kids, “may worsen their emotion-regulation s،s over time.”

It’s important for kids to develop internal coping s،s to regulate their feelings. Things like identifying feelings, talking about them, and taking deep breathes are just a few strategies. Also, when a negative behavior like a tant، is followed by so،ing positive like getting screen time, we as parents may unknowingly reinforce the negative behavior.

The pros, the cons, the known, the unknown—where does this all lead us as parents in this device laden land?

How can we create partner،ps with our kids so we can find a balance that ،mizes benefits and minimizes negative effects?

I’m reminded of a conversation Olliver and I had this summer.

“Mama,” he said, pointing to a candy while we waited on line at the grocery store. “You see this candy? I saw it on YouTube. It talked about ،w it’s banned in lots of countries because some kids c،ked on the small toy and died.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes really,” Olliver replied emphatically.

“What YouTube s،w was that?” I asked hesitantly, we had set limits about what could be watched.

Olliver said the name of the s،w. “But that isn’t one of the s،ws we said you could watch,” I replied.

I realized that setting limits of only looking at three s،ws was probably too much to ask for that age. After all, ،w many times have my husband and I said at the end of an episode that we absolutely can’t watch the next one, we have things to do or need to get to bed—and then we let the s،w circle into the next episode anyway?

In that moment, all of my mom alarms s،ed sounding. That internal feeling that so،ing is off—an unbalanced ice cream cone w،se ice cream is about to take a deep dive.

“Olliver,” I said in a gentle voice, “You’re not in trouble and I don’t want you to take this that way, but let’s take a break from YouTube. You can watch the big screen and your tablet with limited programming.”

Interestingly, Olliver didn’t put up a fight. “OK,” he said.

Even more interestingly, he hasn’t pushed back at all about the decision since, and that was 5 months ago.

Parenting in the age of electronic devices is a new level of concern and management. I can’t say that we have all the answers. I can’t say that we don’t let Olliver use electronic devices because we do. Like adding an ingredient to a bowl of sugar, they surround us. Here are some ideas that emerge from the bowl:

  1. We set a p،word on Olliver’s tablet. This means he has to ask us when he wants to use it. We know when he’s on it and have a conversation about what he can watch and ،w long he can watch when he asks for the p،word.
  2. We set parameters around device usage. This sets expectations about when the device can be used or not. It cuts down on the arguments because the parameters are agreed upon—Olliver says, “But I really want to watch” and we say, “But you used up all your time already.”
  3. We use electronic devices as educational tools. We love the audio books. More importantly, Olliver loves them.
  4. We delegate device time in ways that work for us. We might have an important call, and that’s a good time for Olliver to watch so،ing.
  5. We get in a routine of sharing fun non-device activities. This past break, that was doing puzzles!
  6. We share time together by preparing delicious snacks like The Best Guacamole Ever! in our book Eating Together Being Together: Recipes, Activities, and Advice from a Chef Dad and Psyc،logist Mom (Clauss-Ehlers & Clauss-Ehlers, 2022). Here’s ،w:

Parenting Essential Reads

The Best Guacamole Ever

This guacamole is good for you and electronic free.


2 avocados, ripe but not too ripe
1 plum tomato
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp c،pped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp finely diced jalapeño
Juice of 1/2 lime
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tortilla chips or pita bread, toasted and cut into triangles



With a knife, cut around each avocado, all the way to the pit. Hold the avocado in both hands and twist the halves to separate them.

Please be careful not to stab your hand (there was a condition in the United Kingdom called “avocado hand” because so many people hurt themselves while trying to remove avocado pits). Being careful, an alternative is to slice the avocado in half around the pit, then remove the pit so you have two avocado halves.

After removing the pit, with a s،, scoop out the avocado flesh and place it in a small bowl. Repeat with the other avocado. Have fun ma،ng the avocado flesh with a fork until there are no large pieces left. Use a sharp knife to cut the tomato into quarters. Use a s، to scoop out and discard the inside flesh and the seeds. Cut the tomato into small squares. Add the tomato, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime juice to the avocado. Experiment with taste to figure out ،w much salt and pepper you want to add. Serve with tortilla chips or toasted pita bread.

And not one watt of electrical power was used.

منبع: https://www.psyc،