Students in graduation

A message from the Grossman Counseling Center - Screen Time:

Being that our students are receiving much of their education via virtual learning, we wanted to provide some information and resources for parents to help monitor and limit their child(ren)’s use of electronic devices.

A big question that is being asked is how are parents and kids supposed to decrease screen time when they’re already stressed by global circumstances? It’s important to stay cool, calm and collected during the COVID-19 outbreak. While Coronavirus has made the use of digital devices even more a part of our daily lives, this was happening already. Now, the transition is going to continue to accelerate, which means it’s a good time for parents to both embrace and confront this new reality in which we find ourselves.

Studies say teens are happier with less screen time, though any parent knows trying to take a smartphone away from a teenager isn’t a simple task. Of course, those are slightly dated guidelines here in 2020, at which point we’re dealing with a whole new screen time paradigm due to Coronavirus a.k.a. COVID-19.

Here are some screen time recommendations to consider that will help parents manage screen time for kids:

  • Limit Screen Time: Total amount of screen time per child daily has changed during Coronavirus. Just make sure that time is being put to positive, educational purposes.
  • Encourage Children to Play Outdoors: Screen time on digital devices encourages sedentary habits which can be harmful to the body and mind.
  • Screen Time & Gadgets Not Child Care: Keeping children busy with gadgets or TV may give parents downtime, but there are other ways to do that: creative toys, coloring books, etc.
  • Ensure Adequate Sleep: Kids need around 10 hours of sleep daily, depending on their age and development.
  • Take Screen Time Breaks: Short breaks from looking at gadgets and digital screens every 20 minutes or so reduces eye strain.
  • Maintain Distance from Screen: Don’t get too close to the screen! Your kids’ eyes should be at least 20 inches away from the screen.
  • Lighting Conditions Matter: Kids may not pay attention to lighting conditions when they are engrossed in an activity. Discourage the use of gadgets in a dark room or in bright sunlight.

In addition to time spent, also consider putting some of these ideas in place to manage your family’s screen time.

  • No digital devices of any kind allowed in bedrooms overnight. Kids will keep their smartphones and other digital devices in or near their bed and play games or watch YouTube in the middle of the night. Teens not only will engage in these activities but can be up all-night texting or chatting.
  • Create a screen-free area around the dining room table; not just during family meals, but for any time someone is eating there. Family mealtime should become an opportunity for positive interaction and open communication between all family members.
  • If possible, an office/study room should be available if possible with access to a computer, books, and other materials for work or study.
  • If possible, buy a docking station large enough to accommodate all of the family’s portable devices (phones and tablets) and place it in a central location. Devices can be plugged in when entering the home and should remain there except for agreed-upon times for their use.

You may want to spend time with each child helping them to come up with their own priorities of what shows to watch and other activities to fit within their time limit.

Screens should be turned off when engaging in socialization or other activities such as completing homework (unless the homework is online). Distraction during social exchanges or multitasking is always counterproductive.

Screen Time Alternatives for Families:

  • Physical Activity Reading (with you or on their own)
  • Playing with Toys (think Lego, fantasy play, hobbies)
  • Outdoor Activities Digital Device-Free Family Meals Learn Technology (create videos or animation)
  • Learn Skills (play an instrument, work out, yoga)

Parents need to be role models. Agree to limits on your own use during family meetings and stick with them. You can use Screen Time to monitor your use and set limits. In addition to the above, learning how to set parental controls on various devices is especially important. By using these tools, you’ll be able to monitor your child’s usage, set time limits, and restrict their use to age-appropriate content.

All the experts recognize that the use of digital devices by children and adults in moderation is not harmful and have a place in our lives. However, they all agree that reducing the amount of screen time and only a few hours outside of work for adults leads to improved physical and mental health as well as stronger social connections, including enhanced intellectual and creative development.

A message to both parents and kids: Make your family screen time productive both educationally and as far as entertainment, then shut down the smartphone, turn off the TV, put away the iPad, and just be a family.

Some articles and research:

The above information was obtained through the Child Development Institute. For the full article, please see the link