Nowadays, online learning is an intermittent but integral part of modern curriculums. With more families opting for online classes and some schools instituting hybrid learning environments, it’s harder than ever to regulate your child’s screen time. That said, teaching children how to manage screen time is no easy feat, considering the circumstances of the present day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children limit their use of screens to a maximum of two hours a day. But the reality is that computers, tablets, and smartphones all make life a little easier. For some, they may offer an escape after a long day, or a distraction in the midst of one. Being “plugged-in” is an important part of staying connected with not only what happens in the classroom, but in social groups, too. We’ve gotten to the point where we can’t really limit their screen time without limiting some aspect of their life. So how do we encourage a healthy balance between what happens on screen versus off?
PARENTAL CONTROLS: PRIORITY ONE
It doesn’t matter how much you trust your child to be responsible online, without Parental Controls in place, your child is being exposed to a very large and unpredictable digital landscape. But with multiple devices and even more apps, knowing where to start can be the trickiest part. The first step is to take into account your digital footprint:
- How many screens is your child using in a given day?
- What internet browser are they using?
- What apps do they have downloaded?
- What websites do they frequent?
- Which games are their favorite and who are they playing with?
All of these questions help you create a map of where your child is spending most of their time. Next, you need to look into what parental control provider is the best fit for you. There’s a ton out there. Just make sure it’s doing what you need, which is:
- Blocking content that isn’t age appropriate on websites
- Preventing app downloads that are intended for older audiences
- Requiring parental login to approve purchases
- Giving parents an overview of how their children are spending their time online
TECH-NO VS. TECH-YES Zones
Tech-Free Zones are areas of the home where screens are absolutely off limits, like at mealtime or in bed. Establishing parts of the house where sending a text or scrolling through social are off limits sets up areas for the family to connect.
Separately, having areas of the house intended for specific tasks or activities will help keep your kids organized. For example, if they’re working on a laptop and are trying to get their school work done, set them up in a quiet area of the house where you can still keep an eye on them in case any questions come up. On the other hand, if they’re playing games with their friends, online or in person, consider keeping their gaming consoles or computer use limited to the living room.
BE A ROLE MODEL
Children will seek to emulate you. Whether they realize it or not, their habits, relationships, and character grows in a way that mirrors their environment. To make sure that they develop healthy, balanced boundaries with the screens in their life, you need to lead by example. Adults can’t expect children to remain engaged in a non-screen activity if there’s a TV on in the background or someone else at home is using their smartphone. Here’s a few more tips of how you and the whole family can work on tech/life balance.
- Set aside times when no one at home can use electronics is a great opportunity for family bonding (and everyone gets a much-needed break from technology).
- Have a conversation: Talk to your children about the importance of unplugging from technology and why you are establishing limits on their screen time.
- Include your child: When establishing a technology schedule, be sure to include your children in the process. This will help them feel part of creating your family culture. It will also help them anticipate the outcomes of their behavior, especially if they’ve been involved in determining the rewards for adhering to their limited screen time or the consequences if they don’t.
- Bedtime routines: Have an established time when electronics will be turned off. Issue a warning 30 minutes before bedtime and remove electronic devices from bedrooms at night.
As with any family decision, it’s best to tackle screen time in a collaborative manner and see it as an opportunity for growth and change. By creating a supportive and predictable environment, we can help our children understand our expectations for their behavior.
About Eagle Hill
Eagle Hill School is a private school for students with learning differences located in Greenwich, Connecticut. Their academic program is designed to help students struggling with auditory processing disorder, and other differences such as dyscalculia, dyslexia, ADHD, executive functioning disorder, and dysgraphia. Specialized remedial learning programs are taught by experienced teachers who help students navigate through learning challenges, preparing them for bright futures ahead.