During summer, it is understandable that screen time rules might have been a bit softer. Besides, with the abundance of outdoor activities available, many children weren’t so attached to the smartphones and tablets anyway. However, as the September closes in and the school is about to start, screen time becomes the more urgent thing to deal with.
Here is some basic advice on how to set screen time rules before the new school year starts.
Start by thinking about the essential goals you’d like your screen time balance plan to achieve. You can do this by thinking about questions like:
Do you want family meals to be a screen-free time?
If you are limiting screen time on weekends, which engaging activities are you planning to offer?
Are you prepared to model the screen-free behavior during the agreed no-screen family time?
Keep in mind the 2018 recommendations for balanced screen time use for children when you decide on how much screen time should be allowed. Your screen time plan should also adapt to your child’s school duties, including enough time for distraction-free time to do the homework.
The central point of your screen time balance plan needs to ensure your kids get a good night of sleep. Toddlers need 10 hours of sleep each night to ensure the adequate physical and neurodevelopment. The growth hormone is primarily secreted during sleep, and the REM phase of sleeping is thought to play an essential role in forming new neural pathways.
The easiest way to ensure your children are getting enough sleep is to ban taking smartphones, tablets or other devices to the kids’ bedroom, especially at bedtime.
One of the main concerns psychologist have about the impact the new technology might have on children’s development relates to how fast-paced content affects attention, concentration and focus. It is clear that schoolwork requires a concentrated effort and focused attention and this is very hard to achieve when notifications are popping up, or the TV is on in the background.
To give your children a better chance to focus, minimize the digital distractions when they are doing their homework or studying. This means no smartphones, tablets, TV or other technology they don’t need to complete the school task until the homework is finished.
School activities have become more and more reliant on the use of digital devices. When you’re planning the screen time rules for the new school year, you should also take into account that your child will likely be spending some time during the day with devices related to the school activities. The older children and teens are likely to spend more time engaged with devices then toddlers.
When possible, try offering your kids non-screen versions of educational content. This may not be possible when, for example, they need to research something online, but it is almost always possible to find printed books instead of ebooks.
The best way to ensure your screen time rules will stick is to help your children understand why are they necessary. Yes, it is likely there are going to be some initial arguing, but in the long run, talking about the device use with your children will help them internalize the rules and build a life-long productive habit.
A straightforward way to implement the screen time use is with the help of screen time apps, like Sowi Screen Time Balance. Apps like these only limit some smartphone or tablet functionality during hours you define, while the child is still able to contact you in case, there is an emergency. You can try Sowi for free!
Nikolina is a psychologist (BSc) and a school counsellor. She focuses on writing about childhood development and other mental health topics in an easy-to-understand and fact-based manner. Nikolina’s writing about mental health matters relies on acceptance and mindfulness-based psychotherapy approaches.
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