Tips to help cut back on your child’s screen time ahead of the new school year

BTS: Kids and Technology

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - We’re only days away from the first day of school, and that means students will be coming home with assignments and homework.

With technology becoming more readily available in our homes, staying off the screen and staying focused can be difficult for students. As students prepare for the start of the school year, parents may be wondering when it’s the right time to give their student a cellphone to stay in contact without encouraging them to stay stuck to the screen.

According to Common Sense Media, 70% of parents today believe their teens use their smartphones too much.

Many parents and guardians may be asking themselves the same question: at what age should you get a smartphone for your kids?

Experts say every family is different. Smartphones can give kids a lot of independence and provide parents some peace of mind when it comes to communicating with their child during the day but make sure they know how to use it as a tool.

Linsly Donnelly, vice president of consumer sales & marketing at Securly, a student safety company, says when it comes to determining when the right time is to introduce a digital device like a smartphone to your kid, parents should be prepared to teach their children how to properly use the device.

“Are you ready to coach a child around how devices are a secondary, or tertiary part of the hierarchy with humans? So you have to have etiquette and all those kinds of questions. So developmentally, when you’re talking with kids about having manners and privacy, those are the conversations you want to have about screens too," said Donnelly.

Catherine Scott is an associate professor of elementary education at Coastal Carolina University and says it’s important to have a conversation and establish guidelines from the very beginning when introducing a device to your child. She noted studies show too much use of technology can impact a child’s health including depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

Scott says moderation is key when it comes to balancing devices into your day-to-day life and she says parents should explain to their kids entertainment doesn’t always mean digital.

“I think all things in moderation is important. I think as a general guideline for kids to be spending 30 minutes to an hour a day. I'm not just talking about like screen time with games, but watching TV too is probably what I would recommend. I think that we need to have kids outside playing a whole lot more and using their energy in different ways,” said Scott.

A new school year can mean new digital devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones. While new technology can open up a world of new learning possibilities for students, experts say it’s important for parents to establish guidelines on screen time with kids.

“Kid’s brains are developing a lot, even through college we’re still developing, and so limiting screen time is going to help establish a number of things. Number one, it’s going to help them to limit that impulse control that comes again from that instant gratification of being on the screen,” said Scott.

Parents should keep in mind with the new school year starting that while you’re directing your kids to taper their screen time, they may be asked to add more either during the school day or for homework. That’s why experts say parents should always keep a close eye on their child to make sure they’re on their device for what they’re assigned to do. When you can, remove distractions when they’re doing homework.

A good tip is to offer incentives, such as an additional ten minutes of “fun” screen time, after staying on task for 30 minutes.

Experts say the use of devices should work both ways, as parents should also have a balanced relationship with technology. Letting your kids see that you don’t have the phone out at dinner or being glued to your devices can ensure kids also have healthy boundaries with screen time.

For more information on tools for parents to help manage your children’s devices and set parental controls, click here.

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