The Digital Dilemma - What we Learned, and What now? - Westport Moms

For those who were able to join us for the Digital Dilemma panel, we hope you enjoyed it and learned as much as we did. We’ve been asked by many who couldn’t attend to “recap” the key takeaways, and also what next? How do we keep the momentum going? So…here goes:
*Please note: the below is purely our interpretation of the information shared by the experts on the panel. 

  • While the smart devices many of us most worry about are phones, this also includes ipads, video games and more!
  • Kids brains are not developed enough at the age they are currently using smart devices; their hippocampus and frontal lobe are still forming, and these devices can change your brain chemistry, and withdrawal is very real!
  • Kids are not capable of processing the level of information these devices can provide
  • Studies have proven heightened levels of “screen time” can increase levels of depression and anxiety in children – and teenagers
  • The devices are addictive inherently. Many apps and games have “shaming mechanisms” (i.e., crying emoji faces) when you opt not to play more, or not to buy the add-on app, designed to feed the addiction.
    • There is a reason Silicon Valley tech executives do not allow their children to use technology and send them to technology-free schools.
  • The single most important thing we need to teach kids in elementary school for their long-term well being – and happiness – is EMPATHY. EMPATHY COMES FROM PLAY. Kids don’t play enough today.
    • A study done with young teens averaging 4.5 hours of screen time/day showed a tremendous inability to recognize basic facial expressions – i.e., frustration, sadness, hope. Two weeks of reduced screen time (1 hour/day) resulted in meaningfully improved results
  • Kids need playdates
  • Kids need unstructured time
  • Kids need to be BORED!
  • Kids need to gain independence – by tethering them to us – their parents – and their peers, we are restricting their independence. Letting them find ways to “figure things out” is how kids flourish
  • IF you need a way to reach your child, there is no reason they need a smart device. When a child gets their license, they don’t need a Maserati or Rolls Royce…
    • Give them a “DUMB” phone with basic calling and texting capabilities
    • Check out the Gizmo watch
  • WE are their role models, and so many of us are ADDICTED. Many of us are able to be home more than we ever could, working and functioning remotely. It’s not about the time you’re with your kids. It’s about the attention you are giving them. THEY WANT OUR ATTENTION.
  • Stop to consider the reason you want your child to have a phone..and reconsider.
    • Will it make them smarter? No.
    • Will it make them healthier? No.
    • Will it make them happier? No.


  • What do the schools (elementary included!) say about smart devices at school?
  • Do they have a policy, and if so, what is it? If not, help establish one!
    • In a Newtown private school, kids through middle school who enter the school with a phone must put it in a locked box from start to end of the day. It can be easier to set policies in certain environments, but we have to try!
    • If there is a problem, kids need to learn to figure it out, or find someone in their vicinity who can work to resolve the problem. Kids calling their parents can’t solve most problems.
  • How are the schools thinking about the increased use of computers at school, and for school-related work?
  • Why is phone use not regulated on the busses – this is where so much of the social anxiety and pressures begin. We need policies for this, and we need to ensure they are enforced.


  • We heard a lot about the importance of knowing what your children are doing, and some tools we can use, including:
  • PRIVACY can not exist as it relates to smart devices in the hands of young children. We must monitor. We must watch. We must intervene when necessary
  • Kids are this age are not developmentally capable of making “good decisions.”
  • There are MANY tools, apps, and programs out there to help us do this. They are always changing, and new ones are constantly emerging. We need to stay on it
  • Some of the current techniques are available here, huge thanks to Michael Torraco, owner of QuickTex Computer Specialists.


  • WAIT to give kids these devices – especially smart phones as long as we can. The more we stick together, the less people will feel left out.
  • PUSH FOR MORE REC PROGRAMS FOR KIDS POST ELEMENTARY.  As kids get older, there are fewer and fewer “recreational” programs for kids who aren’t star athletes, actors, artists, etc. We NEED to create opportunities for the regular kids out there to PLAY, to socialize, to have hobbies that are interactive and fun.
  • Put down your phone a little more if you can – whether it’s at meal time, during bed time, when you’re in a store, or even when you’re talking to a friend. Look at people, talk to people, smile at people. Connect with people. It’s what it’s all about.

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