There is a new type of questioning pediatricians are asking kids and parents during children’s annual exams.

I know because my ten year-old and I just experienced it.  The questioning runs as follows:

Pediatrician to child – “How much screen time are you receiving each day?  Are you worried?  Are you engaging in other kinds of play as well?”

Pediatrician to parent – “Do you have concerns regarding your child’s screen time?”

Turning my own pediatrician’s questioning around on her, I asked, “Is screen time a real problem that you are seeing?”

She replied, “A huge one.  Kids no longer get together and go outside to play.  They get together and engage in screen time.  Screen addiction is a real concern for us today.” 

My heart sank, remembering back to all of the good times that I had, had as a child playing with my sisters and friends in the backyard after school, on the weekends and so on.  We’d build mud forts, play games like “Red Rover” and tag.  We’d ride our bikes and throw Frisbees to our dogs.  When inside, we’d play dolls, enjoy board games, and craft.  These were irreplaceable moments with irreplaceable activity and overall health benefits to boot.  The loss of such regular play in this regard is tragic.

But who is to blame?  Certainly, not our children.   

“Parents” definitely are at fault as we buy the technology, pay for the entertainment, and are responsible for monitoring our children’s engagement with both as well as overall health and routine.

But the ‘finger pointing’ doesn’t stop there.  Historically, our highly litigious society also turns its finger towards the creators and providers propagating individual and societal addictions.  Right or wrong, there are many class-action lawsuits, verdicts, and big payouts evidencing this fact.  And I would urge the big players – including device manufacturers, game developers, the big winners in the streaming wars, the cable providers, the retailers, and so on – to take heed.  (I needn’t mention names as these companies are in the news daily riding the tide of monetary, ratings, and promotional gains).

Just as all of the clamor around their success continues to grow, the door to being sued for it continues to open.  It widens with every eyeball and ‘increase in profits’ earned.  That’s reality, one which should be speaking to the leaders of these companies to prepare for the onslaught of lawsuits on the horizon.  They’d be fooling themselves to think otherwise, especially as their pockets deepen.  Remember, it is the words “addiction” and “kids” attached to the word “screen” that re-categorizes and elevates this issue to a whole new level.  So, no…many of the comparisons that initially cropped up in your head when reading this post can’t be compared.

As strategic as it would be moral, providing preventative measures alongside real-time and after-the-fact measures to help children adopt healthy and balanced screen time behaviors is the key to meeting these lawsuits head-on and armed.  I don’t see much of any of this going on currently, especially measures that qualify as preventative (always the best approach to avoiding problems or addictions).  That baffles me, especially with what’s at stake, most importantly the health and welfare of children, families, and our society.  

There are plenty of options and opportunities available, given these companies stopped long enough to ascertain the breach staring them down.  Seems obvious to me, though, and that “the time is NOW“.  BTW, I am not an attorney.  Just a woman who tends to get these kinds of things right ‘ahead of time’.  

I guess we will see if that propensity continues.  But, given what I experienced at my pediatrician’s office holds true across the nation, I’d recommend these companies take a more aggressive approach to changing the tide on the measures they are putting into place to help protect our children from screen addiction.  And, ultimately, “lawyer up” in the process.  

It would be the smart thing to do.