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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

Screen Time - Where Does a Parent Start?

Much has been reported in the last couple of months in regards to young people and screen time, especially for teenagers. The debate swirls even higher nationally about the effects of phone time and social media connections. Whether your child is 4 or 14, you are probably conflicted about their habits and how to better influence them without going to war.

Screen time can impact social and intellectual development. For example, rapid stimulation affects the brain in that in takes it longer to refocus after stimulation with sound and light fluctuations. Social interactions are a learning time for preteens, yet many slink into the safety of their devices instead of fostering relationships and learning social cues.

Perhaps this is why cyberbullying has been on the increase: its harder to be meant to someone when face to face, as opposed to hiding behind the perceived safety of a device. Some psychologists even report that too much time online erodes our capacity for empathy. And then there is the addiction to video games, whose signs can parallel those of drug dependence.

As school leaders, we’ve learned that there are no concrete guidelines for screen time use, but we continue to hear your concerns and we have many of our own. We support the balanced use of personal digital devices that can allow families some level of security with movement to and from school, managing after school activities, and sharing moments in the evening backstage at performances or on the sidelines of sporting events. But as a parent myself, I know it’s easier said than done.

The key word is “balance.”

Here are a few suggestions to ponder:

  • Have conversations with your children about screen time and set limits.

  • Identify “tech free times” such as during dinner and at bedtime, including putting phones in drawers overnight for all family members to prevent the temptation to check email or texts at bedtime and in the middle of the night.

  • Strive for balance and identify time for schoolwork, reading, sports, and family time. The website Common Sense Media has a great Family Media Agreement that is a good start.

  • Put off giving kids phones until they are in the 8th grade, as part of the “Wait Until 8th” campaign that was recently profiled on The Today Show, focusing the avoidance of smartphones until they are older.

  • Walk the walk and put your phone away during dinner time and in the car. Be a good role model for your children.

  • The Child Obesity Foundation recommends a daily 5-2-1-0 recommendation: 5 servings of fruit/vegetables, no more than 2 hours of screen time, 1 hour of physical activity, and no sugary beverages.

Still looking for more?

The non-profit website Common Sense Media is one of the most reliable sources for recommendation for parents and students, as well as a repository for reviews on video games, movies, music, books and more. Common Sense Media improves the lives of kids and families by providing independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media.

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