Tech Talk Circles - Time

Screen time has taken over. According to the Digital Future Project at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the amount of time people spend online every week has risen from 9.4 hours in 2000 to 23.6 hours today. Add smartphones into the mix and the numbers continue to rise. People spent 23% of their time accessing the internet on smartphones in 2010. Today, they spend 84% of their time online on their phones. Email use on smartphones jumped from 21% to 79% and music streaming on smartphones has risen from 13% to 67%. That is a lot of time looking at screens. The phone, tablet, smart TV, and computer are regular staples in our lives. This circle is a place to talk about the constant presence of screens and how we can best manage ours, and our children’s, screen time. 

How to start

Print this page from grey printer icon on the left. Welcome everyone and thank them for being part of the circle. Explain that the circle is a place to have a friendly and informative discussion. Lay out some ground rules such as being respectful while others are speaking by not interrupting, limit rambling and keep your comments succinct and to the point. Tell everyone that they will have a chance to speak. A good idea is to have an item that can be passed around and held by the person speaking.

If there are kids in the circle, acknowledge them and thank them for being part of this important conversation. Encourage the group to share their personal stories, experiences and feelings about screen time, and its constant pull. Remind them that being honest and open will raise the awareness needed to take personal action around setting and managing an appropriate amount of screen time.

Keeping the conversation friendly and flowing

Encourage participants to share their own stories about the addictive pull of their social media. Commonalities and recognition of behavior are some of the best ways to bring about awareness of excessive screen time.

You can also use these scenes from the film to help get the conversation started:

  • In the film, Dr. Ruston and her daughter Tessa work on creating a screen time contract. At first, Dr. Ruston made one and gave it to Tessa. She soon realized that it was important for Tessa to be part of creating the rules that work best for their family. WATCH CLIP

    • How do you manage your screen time?

    • Are you and your kids on the same page when it comes to screen time rules?

    • Do you have a contract? Do you revisit it as the kids get older? Here are some resources to start a contract. We believe it is key to involve your children in making the contract.

  • Dr. Sherry Turkle explains that the effects of too much time online can be reversed. In Screenagers she says:
    “The research shows that human resiliency give me hope. Children for even five days without their devices, in tech-free camps, on measurable tests, have restoration capacity for empathy.”

    • If you are interested in reading the study Turkle refers to here’s a link.

    • Are there any times and places you created in your life that you don’t have screens?

  • Students in the film share their strategies for staying off of their screens. One girl says, “I actually use an app that blocks me from using certain websites. And I gave my friend my Facebook password and made her change it so I can’t go on Facebook right now.”

    • How do you manage your screen time? Here is a roundup of apps and tools to help.

    • Do you think it is better to have a device or a parent warn you that you’ve spent your allotted time on your game or social media?


Look through the many Tech Talk Tuesdays (TTT) we have written on this subject. You will find several articles and resources with practical actions to curb and limit screen time that you can share with the circle.

  • Dr. Ruston recently wrote a TTT laying out actions you as parents can take to help rein in out of control screen time. Read it here.

  • Modeling good screen time habits is one of the best ways to help your kids manage their own. This TTT on the subject is a great resource to share with the circle.

  • Managing screen time can be stressful and often turns into fights. Dr. Ruston, recently wrote a TTT about putting the joy back into parenting. There are some good tips to share with the circle.

  • Apple recently announced a new tool in their latest iOS update called “Screen Time,” which manages the user's screen time. This is a game changer for parents. Google has something similar called Family Link for their phones and some of their devices, but their family controls actually hand back the controls to the teen at 13 years old.

How to wrap up the conversation

Thank everyone for coming. Reiterate some of the key points that were made. Remind everyone to remain aware of their or their child’s screen time and put actions learned into practice.