3 Basic Needs a Screen Can’t Give Your Child

Shutterstock 562380976
Shutterstock photo

Sometime during our busy lives, we need to be reminded of our children’s basic needs. When we get caught up in our screen worlds, it can be even harder for our children to get their attachment needs filled.

As parents connect more and more to technology, they are disconnecting from their children at a rapid pace,” said Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist. “The result is an unprecedented escalation of attachment disorders, posing new and challenging behaviors for teachers and therapists.”

The isolating nature of screens must be recognized and with some intentional practice, we can bridge the gap that our kids may be feeling. The following are just a few of the needs that must be met in order for your child to thrive.


Love = Time. Kids want your time and they need your time. This is not sharing the same space, while you both engage in your own screens or the after-school rush from one activity to the next. These are the fully engaged, personal interactions that foster communication, teach social skills, model empathy and make your child feel loved. These are the times you share together that develop the long-lasting bonds. How else will your child know that they matter to you if you don’t purposefully carve out some time to spend together?

Whether you can sit down and play a game for 10-15 minutes or simply walk through the grocery store together and talk about your child’s day, this time can be woven into the fabric of all the things you need to do and are likely doing alone. Maybe you leave the dishes in the sink after dinner and announce you’re going to jump on the trampoline or bike around the neighborhood. Or perhaps it’s even a family movie night with no other phones or work laptops allowed. As you will discover from your child’s response, time with you is more valuable than time on screens, and it’s free.


Physical touch is an important factor in healthy brain development. Our skin is our biggest organ packed full of nerve cells (over 70,000 tactile receptors per square inch) that directly communicate with our brains. This critical input is needed for development and learning.

A child who is deprived of touch exhibits anxiety, fear and has difficulty adapting to any new environment or situation. Babies who are not touched enough are anxious and agitated. Children who are not touched enough can’t learn. Touch is critical for language development and learning. Children need sensory tactile stimulation to develop normally. It is something that comes fairly easy for parents when their children are young.

But what about my older children? It is not as hard as you think. Simply incorporate a meaningful pat on the back or a quick hug into their everyday life. Look for quick touch opportunities: rubbing their shoulders or arms, tousling their hair or giving them a high five as they run through the kitchen. Older kids love to wrestle with dad for fun the way little kids love to be tickled. They crave it because their sensory systems crave it. It is not a behavioral problem or an attention getter; they need adequate touch.


Think for a moment: When was the last time you sat and had a conversation for more than five minutes with your child that did not revolve around homework, scheduling or logistics? A real meaningful conversation that was mostly listening on your end? Being silent during conversations allows your child to share his or her thoughts. This takes time and practice because many adults tend to speak for their children and over their children not waiting for their input.

The ultimate attachment occurs when your children feel like they can share ideas and feelings with you and be understood by you. Look for opportunities to validate your children’s feelings, share compliments and nurture the open lines of communication. It will be their lifeline when they leave home for the first time. And the more practice you can foster when they are under your roof, the closer their family attachment will be as they grow older.

Attachment needs are as real as your children’s physical needs. Don’t be a fragmented, frazzled and a “far too busy” parent to miss this. Increase your family attachment and begin to repair the small cracks in your children’s developmental foundation. When we are washing their clothes and planning their school lunches this week, let’s be sure to plan for their attachment needs, too!

If you need help reducing the screen conflicts in your home, please reach out to us, we can help. Visit us online for tips and solutions for resolving screen problems and reclaiming childhood. Sign up for our next Screen Solutions Workshop, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018.