A lot of us are used to thinking of screen time as something that is only positive in a limited quantity. But with the ongoing pandemic, the unfortunate reality is that our screens are now lifelines to our jobs, doctors, teachers, friends and family. Which makes limiting, or even monitoring screen time a whole new challenge. Rather than focusing on the difficulties associated with an increased reliance on technology (because no one needs another reason to be anxious), we’ve broken down a few simple steps you can take to ensure your family maintains a healthy relationship with the screens in your lives.
1. Acknowledge the positives. Screen time and online learning do have notable benefits. Effective use of technology can improve students access to information, provide new ways to learn, and increase engagement for tweens and teens.
2. Give everyone a much-needed break from technology by getting an old school alarm clock and then setting up a charging station for cell phones in a common area of the house. Do your best to put phones away 1 hour before bed and keep them there throughout the night. This will keep your phone from disrupting the body’s natural sleep cycle.
3. Play video games together! Better understand the nuances of your kid’s games, connect with them based on their interests, and have fun while you’re doing it.
4. Use those screens to keep in touch with friends and family. Now more than ever it’s important that we do our best to reach out to loved ones and connect with them in whatever way feels most natural. That could be a video call, texting, playing a multiplayer game with friends or joining an online community group.
5. Shift your focus away from counting the hours spent on your devices like phones, tablets and computers, and focus it towards meeting other milestones like getting enough sleep, eating a somewhat balanced diet and getting some form of exercise every day.
6. Engage with your kids interests by choosing apps, games and online programs that are fun and educational. If your kids are going to be online anyway, why not promote learning a new skill at the same time?
The most important takeaway here is to offer yourself, and your kids some grace and understanding while you try to navigate an already complicated digital world. For additional information and practical tools to help your children of all ages manage their screen time, check out the Family Digital Wellness Guide by the Center on Media and Child Health. If you’re struggling with ways to discuss the technology plays within your family, Google has developed a Family Conversation Guide which you might find helpful.