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Metro parents STaRT-ing program to address kids’ screen time, tech use

LEAWOOD, Kan. -- Today, how much time do you think you spent on your phone? According to a 2017 study, adults spent an average of three hours a day on their smart phones.

For kids, it's closer to two hours. Teens are spending more than one-third of their days using media such as online video or music — nearly nine hours on average, according to a study from the family technology education non-profit group, Common Sense Media. For tweens, those between the ages of 8 and 12, the average is nearly six hours per day.

And that has a group of Blue Valley moms doing what some moms do best: Talking. Brenda Walden, Krista Boan, and Tracy Foster talk about their kids, and about technology.

This is a generation raised with technology, even at school.

But many school districts are looking for ways to be mindful. At Leawood Elementary, it took a trip to three different classrooms to show children using technology. Fox4 found a group of first graders using iPads at their class workstations.

"We try to be aware of how much screen time kids have," said principal Dr. Amie Ralston, "because we know there is a lot outside of school too. So what we don`t want is kids connected all day. That can`t replace the human interaction."

The moms agree. "Being able to Facetime with Grandma," said Tracy Foster, is a good use of technology. But we don't know much about the effects of the other tech uses.

"Where it just kind of sucks you in," said Foster "and you spend a lot of your time doing the things."

Brenda Walden added "there's really no how-to manual on that yet" - on how to figure out what works, and doesn't, for a family.

And all that talking started... STaRT: Stand Together and Rethink Technology.

"STaRTis a local initiative," explained Krista Boan, "that encourages and inspires and equips parents to stand together and rethink about technology use."

Thursday night, the mothers will assemble with other like-minded individuals to discuss what - if anything - can be done in this tech-filled world.

"We found out this is a much broader issue," explained Foster. "It isn't a 'Wait until their 13, and then they're magically ready to have the world handed to them.' Instead, we realized it's about helping to train your kids take approprite levels of responsibility that increase over time."

So that as they grow so does their digital savvy. But maybe not their digital footprint.

Some ideas the start group suggests are simple: No phone meals, or a nightly curfew.