Managing Screen Time When School is in Session

There has been a great deal of research showcasing the damaging effects of screen time on children’s brains. Children with attention and anxiety issues are often the most susceptible to the damaging effects of screens.

Adding complexity during the school year, many classrooms across the country are relying on laptops and desktop computers as education tools more and more frequently.

So how do you help your child manage their screen time during the back-to-school season? Here are a few tips.

Using phones only when necessary

Many children are given cellular phones at ages as young as eight or nine. While it is a great way to keep connected to your child during the day, it also can create some negative long-term patterns, and creates one more channel for them to be connected to screens. So if you need a phone for communication with your child, make sure you set rules and policies that encourage your child to use it only when necessary. Have a basket or container where they have to deposit the phone when they enter the house. This helps them separate the phone from them physically, and out of sight, out of mind!

Additionally, set limits and timers on the utilization of any games or other apps available on the phone. Many systems (such as Circle — by Disney) allow you to set usage limits on all digital devices. Relying on systems such as these to monitor and regulate screen time with your kids will help alleviate the pressure on you as a parent, and will allow for greater consistency and can help you build positive patterns with your child.

Syllabus review

Once your child has received their schedules and syllabi, have a family meeting where you review all of their classes and review which classes will require computer assistance. Once you have the full estimate, work with your child to create a schedule for their computer usage as it relates to their academic needs. Setting a schedule ahead of time will allow you to work with your child daily to ensure their screen time is focused on necessary tasks, rather than distraction.

Go “old school”

While many classes may “recommend” writing papers or essays on a computer, ask your child to complete the first draft of their assignments on paper. The act of writing isn’t just a soothing task for many children, it also helps connect the physical and intellectual components of the child’s brain, which often results in greater retention. To add some additional fun, shop for fun notebooks with your child so that they feel that their materials are a positive part of the process of back to school!

Buy a mini-dictionary

While digital tools such as spell-check, and other digital writing tools, have made writing with proper grammar easier for both parents and children alike, it also takes away the natural learning progression of children having to go through the exercise of discovering how to rely on other tools like dictionaries and writing style guides. Purchase a mini-dictionary for your child that they can easily carry with them in their backpack. That way, when they have a spelling question the answer is right at their fingertips. The exercise of seeking the proper spelling of a word via a physical dictionary or spelling-guide not only helps children retain the information, it also helps them internalize the process of seeking information alphabetically.

Bring out the old games

Back to school can be a lot of work for children and families alike. But that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out time for fun as a family. To bring some fun to your child’s day, replace family TV or movie night with board games or other group activities. Not only will you be able to use the time for meaningful connection, it is one less opportunity to fall back on using screens for entertainment.

But however you manage limiting screen time during the back-to-school season, remember it is a process. There will be some days where it is easier than others, and remember to be patient with both yourself and your child. And if you find a tip or a trick that has worked for your family, make sure to share it with us!