Decoding Screen-Influenced Play: Insights for Play Therapists

Feb 29, 2024

In this episode, I delve into a question from Batsheva about how to distinguish between play that stems from a child’s imagination versus play influenced by screen time. As someone who authored the book “Device Detox,” I’m deeply passionate about reducing children’s screen time due to its harmful effects. While it’s true that screen-influenced play can disrupt the purity of imaginative play, it’s crucial to trust the child’s process regardless of what they bring into the playroom. Whether it’s reenacting video games or sharing experiences from outside the therapy session, every aspect of a child’s play holds significance. Additionally, it’s essential to recognize the difference in play patterns between neurotypical and neurodivergent children. While screen-influenced play is more typical for neurodivergent kids, it can signal excessive screen time for neurotypical children. Addressing this issue with parents is vital, even if it means having difficult conversations about monitoring and regulating screen use. Ultimately, our goal is always to advocate for the child’s well-being and provide them with the support they need to thrive.

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  • Cochran, N., Nordling, W., & Cochran, J. (2010). Child-Centered Play Therapy (1st ed.). Wiley.
  • VanFleet, R., Sywulak, A. E., & Sniscak, C. C. (2010). Child-centered play therapy. Guilford Press.
  • Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed.). Brunner-Routledge.
  • Bratton, S. C., Landreth, G. L., Kellam, T., & Blackard, S. R. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT) treatment manual: A 10-session filial therapy model for training parents. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Benedict, Helen. Themes in Play Therapy. Used with permission to Heartland Play Therapy Institute.
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Device Detox: A Parent’s Guide To Reducing Usage, Preventing Tantrums, And Raising Happier Kids.

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“Dr. Brenna Hicks does an excellent job of sketching the problem, but the book shines brightest when Dr. Hicks offers a suite of practical, evidence-based strategies for coping with screen overuse in children. A valuable book that deserves to be read by parents everywhere.”


New York Times bestselling author of IRRESISTIBLE and DRUNK TANK PINK