Today we would like to talk about another case of parents handing off their
responsibilities to an electronic device: namely, the management of
We are referring to the “tablet hypnotist” or the “cell phone saver,” which
quickly puts an end to a child’s screaming and crying.
This type of parenting strategy is called “media emotion regulation.” It’s
when parents use electronics to help control their children’s difficult
emotions. In the moment, this strategy might seem quite effective, but how
much does it affect children’s growth and the way they handle their
Sporadic use or chronic habit?
Needless to say, it is a recurring temptation for parents to resort to
calming their child down with an electronic device, which typically has an
immediate soothing effect. When a child is angry, they are unable to put
themselves in another’s shoes, and they often lash out physically. We can
easily feel powerless in the face of a child’s outbursts.
Who among us has never used a cell phone when in others’ company
or in a busy moment…and our child burst out just in that moment?
The problem arises when this occasional action becomes the norm…
What happens when a child becomes accustomed to controlling their
emotions with electronics?
An article published on Mercatornet,
Meltdown and media: the costs of using screens to regulate your child’s
reveals, by analyzing the results of a study, just how much parents entrust
their cell phones with the task of “calming their kids down.”
This study showed that almost 20% of the parents in the sample frequently
used this strategy—practically one in five used this method on a regular
It also emerged, however, that the more frequently electronics are used to
regulate their child’s emotions, the more the child will be inclined to
lash out and throw temper tantrums, precisely because they have
not been taught to measure their reactions.
When emotions are quelled—but not interrupted and managed—the problem is
far from solved.
Another indicator of problematic use of technology is full-blown addiction
to electronic devices. The child himself begins to experience media as a
sedative for a state of mind he doesn’t like, instead of seeking other
Some tips for constructively handling your child’s anger
The above article also proposes four alternative strategies:
1) Validate your child’s emotions and show empathy. It’s
boring to sit in a shopping cart for an hour while your parents go
shopping! I’d probably be upset, too. So, name your child’s emotion, e.g.,
” I bet you feel bored or sad sitting there. I get it! It’s okay to feel
bored! How can I help?” Simply validating and expressing empathy might be
enough to prevent a total meltdown.
2) Be prepared. If validating their feelings and showing
empathy doesn’t work, have a backpack prepared with things you can use to
distract your child (electronics excluded). This could be a special
backpack specifically used for toys, stickers, and books that you only use
when you go out, so the toys keep the child’s attention in their “newness.”
3) Stop and think. When your child loses their cool, it’s
easy for us to lose our cool along with them. Stop. Take a few deep breaths
and give yourself a second to think. This will help you to deal with the
Don’t feel guilty if you use electronics on rare occasions.
You’re not the first or only parent to use electronics to calm down an
upset child, and you won’t be the last. Stop and ask yourself: Is this an
emergency (do you desperately need your child to stop crying now because
you’re emotionally exhausted or just started another Zoom call for work?)?
Or… do you have other resources (emotionally, time, tools, etc.) that allow
you to take a different approach?
5) Do you have other suggestions that can help parents?
Please, share with us.