By: Nicole Smith, School Counsellor and Designated Safeguarding Lead
Before the pandemic started, conversations about screen time were already a hot topic, and now with more children attending school online the conversation around screen time and age-appropriate internet usage has become even more important. It’s not too late to take control of our virtual world!
As you know, screen-time can just keep going and going, so one of the best practices in reducing it is to discuss expectations in advance. Don’t wait ’til the kids are pleading, “But Mom, I’m sooooo close to winning the game.’ or “Please, Dad, just five more minutes.” Those 5 more minutes quickly turn into 10 and then 90. Setting restrictions on the content they can access and the amount of time they can spend online can help enforce boundaries. This means you won’t constantly have to monitor how long your kids have been online or worry as much about what they’ve been doing. Establishing rules ahead of time and then sticking with them provides consistency, and kids do well with consistency – all the more so during this time of upheaval. Bear in mind that the limits you set need not be a specific number of minutes. Try to think of other, more natural ways of breaking up their activities. Maybe your kid plays one game before tackling homework. Also, consider granting them one day per weekend with fewer restrictions on screen-time socialising.
With all this in mind it is also important to monitor and know what they are watching and are being exposed to. If children are exposed to images and information that is above their developmental level then it can have negative effects on their cognition and wellbeing. This is the reason why there are ratings on television shows and movies. Children and adolescents don’t have the language and the processing skills to always make sense of what they just saw. Thus, it’s our responsibility as teachers and parents to protect and shelter our kids from the abyss of information. This can be done using parental control apps and sitting and watching along with your child. ** I strongly advise that students should not watch the current Squid Game out on Netflix
Lastly, For your own well-being, as well as to provide an example for your children, one change you can make is to limit your own habits. Easier said than done, but all of us parents have to be better at putting down our phones from time to time. If our kids see us refreshing Instagram every two minutes instead of opening a book, or taking a walk, or having an actual conversation, they will learn from us. Another approach is to carve out quality family time free of all devices – for everyone! When working with families, I have seen notable improvements in general moods for many families who have created a “no device time” for all members of the family. And hey a lot of the students I talk with also want more restrictions around devices as well!