Back to School Screen Facts and Tips

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Managing school screens is a top priority for parents.

The start to a new school year is a great time to rethink your child’s screen use. More than likely, your children developed some bad screen habits over the summer, so now is the perfect time to readjust and get them back on track. From iPads and laptops in the classroom to your teen’s smartphones, parents have a lot to manage when it comes to screens during the school year.

Screen facts

  1. Personal laptop use in class leads to lower grades. Studies tell us that “too many distractions” is the reason why there is a direct correlation between classroom laptop use and lower grades, GPAs and SAT scores.
  2. Pen and paper are a clear winner over typing notes. Putting pen to paper (instead of typing) when taking notes is associated with improved long-term information retention, better thought organization and increased ability to generate ideas.
  3. Second-hand screen distractions lower GPAs. Students who sit near a peer who is “screen multitasking” are distracted leading to an overall decrease in class performance and lower final test scores.
  4. Blurring screen play with academics comes with a cost! The gamification of learning dangerously conditions your child’s brain to bypass the grit, hard work, uncomfortable feeling, and determination that are essential for lifelong learning habits to take root.
  5. Screen use changes your child’s behavior. Stimulating screen activities are “rewiring” your child’s brain. The brain must change to accommodate this unnatural stimulation and this change is being linked to the 53 percent increase in ADHD symptoms over the past 10 years.

Finding balance

  1. Cut way back on entertainment screens at home during the school week. This means no video gaming and very little social media during the week, if any. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends just a few hours a day for screen use and that is easily used up during the school day.  Your child needs time for physical activity and exercise, for chores, for real screen-free downtime, and for connecting with family after school.
  2. Make car time a screen free zone. Mornings should be reserved for a peaceful ride to school to set the pace for the day, checking social media on the way to school can be very stressful for kids. The richest conversation of the day can happen the minute your child gets in the car after school, or walks in the door from the bus, even when they are teens. If you miss that conversation because their nose is buried in a screen, you may never get those details about their day again.
  3. Keep laptops on the kitchen table and keep all screens out of the bedroom … period. Don’t buy the excuse that your child has to do their homework in their bedroom with their laptops and phones. That is perhaps the biggest mistake parents make.
  4. Goal: All screen homework is done before dinner. Start this habit early so they will build good bedtime habits when they are teens.  Screens in the evening keep your kids and teens from getting adequate sleep. Get the screen work done early and pull out the books before bed.
  5. Never allow your child to have secret passwords to their devices. You are the keeper of the passwords and your email is the recovery email for ALL of their devices. They can have their own passwords and Apple IDs when they are old enough to purchase a phone and sign the contract on their own.
  6. No smartphones during homework time for K-12. In her book, "The Teenage Brain," neuroscientist Francis Jenson says that it takes between 25 percent to 400 percent longer for a teen to complete homework when screen multitasking. If they need to “talk” to a friend about homework, they can use your phone (or a house phone) to make a voice call. Or better yet, have a friend over to work on a school project if necessary. Just make sure you collect the friend’s phone at the door or they work at the kitchen table (not in their bedroom).
  7. Cut social media time back during the school year. Remember that social media is not healthy for kids and especially for teens. Studies prove that the more they are on it, the more stressed and depressed they will be. Social media is an entertainment technology that is highly addictive for a young brain. Instead of more social media, schedule opportunities for real friends to come over and engage in face to face time with your teens. That will prepare them for the real world and a future job better than any amount of time spent on social media.

While technology can provide many benefits for your student, not all screens are created equal. Manage the screens in your child’s life well, and do not let the latest technology derail your teens from reaching their potential. Get the facts, and then jump in to help your kids balance their screens — they are not able to do it alone.

Join us for monthly local Parent Connection Meetings. Our Next meeting is Sept 22. For more information on Kid's and screens and screen addictions go to familiesmanagingmedia.com.