As Calvary Day School began planning our one to one technology initiative several years ago, one of our main objectives was to offer a safe technology environment for our students both here on campus as well as in student homes across the city of Savannah. We quickly realized that there were many concerns we would need to address if we hoped to have an implementation that both students and parents would willingly embrace. I would like to address the first of many concerns that we discovered in our planning.
Are Students Getting Too Much Screen Time?
Unfortunately, there are as many differing opinions on this issue as there are “experts” in the field. A quick Google search on the issue will reveal articles stating that too much “screen time” is linked to, “violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep and a host of other problems.1” In the same list you will find articles that warn us that “if we restrict our kids’ access, while we’re emailing from an Apple Watch, they won’t respect the rules when they have a chance to get around them.2“
Most experts agree that the negative aspects of “too much screen time” are about what is being sacrificed. Sitting in front of a television, computer, or mobile device for hours on end means that you are sacrificing being physically active. It is this lack of activity that leads to obesity, lack of sleep, and other issues. When we sacrifice quality content for questionable sources of entertainment and unhealthy online friendships it can lead to violence, depression, and the inability to focus. I believe that our job as parents is to determine the best balance of screen time to physical activity, as well as making sure that the content our kids are consuming is reinforcing the values of the Christian family.
Here are a few guidelines offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics3:
Set limits and encourage playtime. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children. And—don’t forget to join your children in unplugged play whenever you’re able.
Families who play together, learn together. Family participation is also great for media activities—it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids. It’s a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. And, you can introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives—and guidance—as you play the game.
Be a good role model. Teach and model kindness and good manners online. And, because children are great mimics, limit your own media use. In fact, you’ll be more available for and connected with your children if you’re interacting, hugging and playing with them rather than simply staring at a screen.
Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes and other family and social gatherings tech-free. Recharge devices overnight—outside your child’s bedroom to help children avoid the temptation to use them when they should be sleeping. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep, all critical for children’s wellness.
So how much screen time is too much? The Common Sense Media Organization sums it up by saying that, “there really is no magic number that’s ‘just right.’ What’s more important is the quality of kids’ media and how it fits into their — and your family’s — lifestyle.4” Take some time this week to discuss some good screen time guidelines with your family. Be flexible and ready to experiment to see what works best for your family. No amount of advice from the “experts” will ever be an adequate substitute for good, engaged parenting.
Next time we will look at some guidelines for protecting your kids on the internet.
1 “Pediatricians urge parents to limit kids’ “screen time” – CBS …” 2013. 9 Oct. 2015 <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pediatricians-urge-parents-to-limit-kids-screen-time/>
2 “Don’t Limit Your Teen’s Screen Time – NYTimes.com.” 2015. 9 Oct. 2015 <http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/07/16/is-internet-addiction-a-health-threat-for-teenagers/dont-limit-your-teens-screen-time>
3 “Children And Media – Tips For Parents.” 2015. 26 Oct. 2015 <https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Children-And-Media-Tips-For-Parents.aspx>
4 “How much screen time is OK for my kid(s)?.” 2014. 26 Oct. 2015 <https://www.commonsensemedia.org/screen-time/how-much-screen-time-is-ok-for-my-kids>