Screen time often spikes for children during the summer, but as the season winds down and the new school year begins, it marks a fresh opportunity for families to instill new habits around technology use. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers these tips for families as they embark on the 2019–2020 school year:
1. Make—and Stick to—a Plan
A Family Technology Plan can keep all family members on the same page when it comes to tech rules and expectations. Numerous trusted groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Common Sense Media, offer templates to make this easy. Even if families have an existing plan, this is a good time to revisit it and consider whether the rules need to evolve. What is, and isn’t, working? Are kids old enough for additional/different privileges? These plans are not static. They need to change to be effective.
2. Focus on Quality
Although quantity (i.e., daily/weekly time limits) still has a place and utility for many families, not all screen time is created equal. As most experts now stress, 30 minutes spent creating something (art, programming, etc.) is not necessarily the same as 30 minutes passively viewing YouTube videos. Emphasize the former—and consider allowing more leeway if the time is well spent.
3. Make Dinner Time Sacred
This is a classic but still-relevant recommendation: Dinner time should be offline time. Conversation should be king at the dinner table. In addition to building kids’ communication (speech, language, and social) skills and providing an unmatched, consistent opportunity for family bonding and connection, regular family dinners offer a host of other benefits. Technology is almost always a distraction—so no answering texts, sending emails, or surfing the web.
4. Keep Bedtime Use Off Limits
Another classic but often ignored recommendation is bedtime restrictions. Recent research from Common Sense Media found 68% of teens (and 74% of parents) now take their mobile devices to bed with them. Not only can this detract from beneficial bedtime activities such as daily reading, but it can interfere with adequate sleep—which is necessary for physical and mental health as well as academic success.
5. Limit Tech Use During Homework Time
Homework restrictions undoubtedly become more difficult as kids get older and assignments require online research. To that end, kids should use tech as sparingly as possible—and only to assist them with their homework. This is not the time to be multitasking with social media or texting.
6. Get Involved
Make tech use a group activity. Watch kids play Fortnite, or view videos from their favorite YouTuber with them. Ask questions. Show (better yet, have) interest. This not only keeps the lines of communication open and provides a chance to talk/bond, but it may serve as a comfort to parents who have concerns about their child’s online time—i.e., it may not be as bad as they think. Conversely, this co-viewing can serve as an early indicator of problematic content or viewing habits.
7. Elevate the Conversation
Think beyond limits, rules and restrictions. Again, these have their place, but encourage kids to think critically, for themselves, about how they use technology (risks/rewards). Help them appreciate and value offline time—both activities (e.g., sports, art) and relationships (spending time with family and friends, prioritizing people over devices). Parents can’t monitor everything, especially as children get older. Talk about expectations for being a good digital citizen. Establish family morals around tech use. This way, kids will carry these along when they are at friends’ houses, on the school bus, and out in the world. Offer the tools to make good decisions, and model healthy tech habits for them.
For more information and tips, visit the Healthy Communication & Popular Technology Initiative (http://www.communicationandtech.org and https://medium.com/asha-communication-and-tech) of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
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