Crafting screen time guidelines for all family members is a great back-to-school undertaking, but coming up with guidance that is fair and equitable requires family members to consider and answer a range of questions.
Devoting beginning-of-the-year time — at home and at school — to examine solutions to the screen time equation will help 21st Century children find and understand answers to the most challenging question that so many of us ask, “What exactly is screen time?” To help get started the whole family can listen to a radio program about screen time, a 2015 broadcast on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show.
Schools can support and collaborate with families by helping students understand the usefulness of non-screen activities, specifying clearly to parents and students the academic expectations for school digital devices at home, and explaining in detail what students are expected to do and use when they complete work online. Refocusing on multitasking (It’s not possible.) is also a good idea as well as stating the school’s commitment to student privacy.
While each family’s screen time guidelines will be different, taking into consideration a family’s values, the number and ages of children, interests of the children, a child’s homework load, and whether students carry school digital devices back and forth between home and school, the conversations will often yield more benefits than the family’s final screen time product. Also remember that screen time policies go hand-in-hand with each child’s digital device contract or agreement.
Questions to Ask at Home in Conversation With Family Members
- After homework, how should each of us divide our time between activities with screens and activities without?
- When and where should the family plan non-screen activities that encourage family conversation?
- What should count as screen time? Should educational games, sometimes called “edutainment,” count?
- Should we have a scheduled time each evening (dinner time, for instance) for turning off digital devices?
Question to Ask Your Child’s Teacher
(Even more critical if children carry digital devices between home and school.)
- What apps or programs are used most frequently in school?
- Will my child use social media apps for school?
- How much time, approximately, should a student my child’s age spend doing homework on his or her device?
- What happens if my child uses a school device inappropriately?
- How much control do I have in limiting my child’s use of social media on a device that the school provides?
Questions for Parents to Ask Themselves
- Am I willing to learn enough and take enough time to keep track of the programs and apps on my child’s devices?
- Will I expect my children to touch base with me before downloading any new app?
- Am I modeling for my children by putting down my screens when kids speak to me?
- Am I intentional about scheduling non-screen activities with my family?
- Have I figured out where digital devices can be charged away from bedrooms?