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healthy habits

Representative Image From Canva

Imagine if everyone adhered to these guidelines.

We know too much screen time is not good for us. We also know that younger folks are particularly susceptible to screen addiction. What we don’t fully know is how to effectively help teens and tweens manage the habit, especially when screens are such an everyday part of life.

However, psychiatrist, author and dad of seven Richard Wadsworth recently went viral after showing his own personal strategy for getting his kids to do something other than scrolling. It could be the perfect solution for parents to not only break screen addiction, but instill some other healthy ritual as well.

In the clip, we first see Wadsworth’s tween son doing deltoid exercises with dumbbells. Which he apparently got up at 6:30 am to do.

What could possibly incentivize practically anyone, let alone a preteen to wake up at the crack of dawn to lift weights? Read on.

Wadsworth then showed a typed out list of various tasks that must be performed before even setting eyes on a phone or tablet. The list included a short workout in the form of one mile on the treadmill or 20 minutes of another exercise.

Wadsworth explained that rather than enforcing strict rules, this method provides necessary structure without taking away choice.

“I’m not forcing my son to exercise every day, but I am setting rules and boundaries around his screen time,” he said. “He decided he wanted to have more time after school to play with his friend. And so in order to do that, he realized that he’d need to wake up a little bit earlier and exercise in the morning.”

In addition to exercise, the list included domestic chores like cleaning the bedroom and shared areas, finishing homework, doing laundry, preparing for the next day…and, perhaps most importantly…making sure the toilet is flushed.

“We have all of their screens locked away. And if they want access to any of them, they need to come ask us and we’ll go through the list together. And they’re not getting their screens until the list is done,” Wadsworth continued.

He also drew a comparison between screen time and sugary sweets, noting how most parents probably wouldn’t routinely allow kids to eat dessert before a nutritious meal, but instead allow it to be a treat.

“Just as you would hopefully have your kids eat dinner before they had their dessert, you should probably be having them do something positive…before they get on their screens." Hence why he tries to get his kids to complete their list before going to the phone.

And in case you’re wondering how Wadsworth’s son feels about all this, he reported having “so much energy for school” feeling “so much better” since his dad introduced the to-do list.

@doctorwadsworth #greenscreen #parenting #parentingtips ♬ original sound - Richard Wadsworth

Bottom line: kids need guidance from their parents. And Wadsworth recommends clear cut boundaries to help them develop good habits, “because if you don’t do it, nobody else is.”

Wadsworth’s parenting hack was well received, with quite a few grown adults saying they could benefit from this type of boundary-setting in their own life.

“Even I’m addicted to this screen. I have to tell myself to put it down all the time and I’m a grown adult. Kids definitely need this!” one user wrote.

Another added, “I need someone to do this for me (I’m 28).” To which Wadsworth replied, “we all need parents sometimes.”

Even with potential TikTok bans, social media isn’t going anywhere. The sooner parents can implement guidelines like these, the better equipped their kids will be at balancing tech savviness with tech dependence.

This article originally appeared on 3.19.24