Take Action

Use these tips and tools to support your family’s path to healthy tech use. This page is an ongoing work-in-progress. Share your favorite resources and tools with us to help:

a.) Promote Healthy Tech Use for All Ages

b.) Scaffold Smartphones for our Young People

c.) Foster Unplugged Activities and Relationships

a.) Promote Healthy Tech Use for All Ages

We suggest a three-pronged approach: (1) recognizing that as parents and educators we are modeling behavior; (2) setting family and school rules for digital usage; and (3) digital mentorship of our children.

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Step 1: Check yourself - Model Good behavior

Let’s face it - actions speak louder than words! Model the tech use behavior you would like to see in your child(ren). It starts with self-awareness of your own use. Not convinced? Check out the Atlantic article on distracted parenting from July/August 2018.

  • If you have an iPhone: update your operating system to iOS 12 to take advantage of Apple’s new Screen Time feature (located in ‘settings’), which increases users’ self-awareness of their digital habits. It also allows you to manage usage of family members. Read Delaney Ruston’s (filmmaker, Screenagers movie) overview of Screen Time’s features.

  • If you have an Android: An equivalent screen time manager and parental control app is available from Screen Time Labs. Google’s Digital Wellbeing is also creating screen time tools and features.

  • The Center for Humane Technology is a great overall resource dedicated to realigning technology with humanity. Check out their top hits of how to Take Control of your tech habits.

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To set your family up for success, set parameters for media and phone usage. Experts recommend revisiting these agreements on a regular basis (at least every six months). Here are some favorite publicly-available samples of media agreements:

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STEP 2B: Support YOUR SCHOOL’S “Away for the Day” POLICIES

Did you know that Mill Valley Middle School (MVMS) has an “Away for the Day” school policy? This means students are not allowed to access or use personal phones or devices during school hours.

The following excerpt is from the MVMS policy handbook:

Unplug and Tune-in to Others: While we are a 1:1 iPad school, it is important that students take a break and balance their technology use. All personal electronic devices (personal iPad, iPhone, iWatch, cell phone, etc.) must be turned-off and in backpacks from 8:35 - 2:50 (2:28 on Wed) and school iPads are not permitted during recess, lunch, and passing periods. While we do open the library for lunch, students will not be allowed to use their iPads in the library during this time. Lunch is a great time for students to grab something to eat, talk with their friends, play on the field and blacktop, get some exercise, participate in intramurals, join a club, and enjoy being outside.

Want to help your school create an “Away for the Day” policy? Start here!

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Step 3: Be An Active Digital Mentor


Consider How Your Family Uses Media

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Is your family using screen media more frequently as a way station or a destination?

  • Using screen media as a way station includes: texting friends or using social media to coordinate a get-together (e.g., to meet up at a park to play pick-up soccer); spreading word about an event or issue; communicating logistics with many people quickly (e.g., coordinating a carpool).

  • Using screen media as a destination may look like: spending your evening on social media - scrolling, posting and commenting; spending your night watching YouTube videos; spending hours alone playing video games “with friends.”


Is your family using screen media more frequently for production or consumption?

  • Production includes: researching a topic, issue, or recipe; writing a paper, article, book, or letter; creating a PowerPoint presentation; collaborating with peers via Google Docs; making an iMovie about a topic; learning and practicing skills (math facts, learning a language, etc); coordinating details for an event; creating music, art, coding, etc.

  • Consumption looks more like: playing video games; scrolling through social media; watching Netflix or YouTube.


FIND High Quality
Age-Appropriate Content

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Common Sense Media helps families make informed media choices by offering “the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.”


The Smartfeed is a searchable database of media content to help parents find what they want for their kids and family.  Parents can filter content by age, thematic interests/ character traits/ academics they'd like to reinforce, media type (e.g., movies, shows, apps, games, books), and provider (e.g., Netflix, Amazon, Apple).

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TIPS to promote HEALThy HABITS with mobile devices

This list of tips for developing healthy relationships with tech was compiled based on lessons learned from pioneering parents ahead of us, and after hearing about some of the stickier issues for local families.

b.) Scaffold Smartphones for our Young People

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It takes 16 years before a child is ready for the driver’s seat. Why shouldn’t we think through an analogous incremental process or scaffolding to introduce phones to our children?



Consider letting the line out a little bit at a time. This visual is a suggested scaffolding – you can enter it wherever you want, depending on how old your kids are and your family values or needs.  

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This list of suggestions and talking points was compiled based on conversations with local families.

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Best Practices if/when your Child Gets a Smartphone

A compilation of suggested best practices from parents, therapists, and other experts.

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If you'd like to be connected to other parents from your grade and school who are delaying giving their children smartphones until (at least!) 8th grade, you can sign the Wait Until 8th pledge to join this larger movement. Flip phones or basic phones/watches that text and call still qualify — this pledge is about restricting constant pocket access to Apps/games, social media, and the Internet.

c.) Foster Unplugged Activities and Relationships

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Tried and true device-free and portable alternatives for keeping your kids busy when being present isn’t an option.

Audio stories are another wonderful non-screen way to occupy your kids. Our local Mill Valley library has an extensive collection of children’s audio books (on CDs) for car rides or in place of screen time at home. And Alan Scofield, a local storyteller, provides a treasure trove of classic and original audio stories to delight and inspire children at The Story Home.

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Our kids will ask for screentime. It may drive us crazy sometimes, but we can try to respond from a place of empathy rather than frustration. Screens are an easy and quick-fix for our kids’ boredom. Let’s embrace these requests for screentime as teachable moments to help our kids recognize the lure of screens and dig a bit deeper to direct themselves to enjoyable non-screen uses of their time. How can we support our kids to find other activities and interests that lift them up on the inside?

Food for thought: instead of framing the conversation around screen time limits, perhaps we should focus on preserving and fostering non-screen activities and relationships that we know are developmentally important (and are often displaced by screen time). Before allowing recreational screen use, consider the following:

  1. Has my child been physically active for at least one hour today?

  2. Has my child free-played without a screen today? Or had the opportunity to overcome boredom?

  3. Has my child interacted face-to-face with friends today?

  4. Has my child been outdoors today?

  5. Has my child had the chance to curl up with a book?

  6. Is my child getting sufficient sleep for his/her age?

Need ideas and inspiration for family fun in the Bay Area? Check out Ronnie's Awesome List, a comprehensively up-to-date list of family-friendly events and activities in Marin and beyond. Let’s all get out there!

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encourage unstructured play in our town

To complement healthy tech habits for our kids, as a community we also need to think creatively about how to encourage and support more opportunities for unstructured, outdoor free play for our children. We live in such a beautiful and safe place, so let’s help each other find practical ways to foster free play among peers. For example, check out what this organization, Playing Out, is doing in the UK. A more local example in Mill Valley’s highly-scheduled context is that some groups of elementary-school parents are “scheduling unstructured time” - for example, their kids meet after school on a scheduled day of the week to free play within set community boundaries. Contact us if you’d like to join a workgroup focused on this topic.