As parents, it can feel like your children are spending too much time in front of the screen. From homework to video games to social media and beyond, there are so many opportunities for tweens and teens to have an excessive amount of screen time. It’s important to help students find a healthy balance between time spent online and offline. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
So, we asked 7 experts to share their best tips for teaching teens how to balance screen time with offline activities.
- Constantly controlling screen time isn’t a long-term solution Jennifer Bernstein, Get Yourself Into College, @JennbBernstein
- Take on an extracurricular activity Varda Epstein, Kars4Kids, @EpaVard
- Consider using the Moment app David Ezell, Darien Wellness
- Disconnect on the weekends Rabbi Michael Cohen M.S.Ed, The Tech Rabbi, @TheTechRabbi
- Treat time spent online as a reward Daniel Kavish, Lander University
- Utilize the timer on your phone Crystal Olivarria, Career Conversationalist, @Crystal70k
- Understand the value of being online Ari Banayan, Habit Nest, @HabitNest
Supporting kids in creating their own healthy balance between online and offline activities is essential. Constantly controlling when they’re on and when they’re off isn’t a long-term solution. It’s often hard for teens to get offline at night because our devices emit blue wavelengths, which, according to the HarvardHealth Letter, “boost attention, reaction times, and mood.” They keep us up and wired! Have your teens install f.lux on their computers and use features like “Night Shift” on their iPhones (which increase relaxing red tones). They’ll naturally start winding down and you can avoid—or at least minimize—the fights.
Taking on an extracurricular activity such as singing in glee club or going out for a sport is the best way for students to ensure there’s a healthy balance between online and offline time. These activities involve being with others in the real, as opposed to the virtual world, and doing some sort of teamwork.
One of the primary rules of behavioral psychology is that observed behavior changes. When I have a client tell me they wish they could spend less time on their phones, or complain about their spouses or children doing so, I recommend an app called Moment. Moment is a free app that gives you an incredible level of detail on your behavior with regards to your smartphone. Once it’s set up it runs seamlessly in the background and can tell you a lot about your hourly and daily use of your smart device.
And for an up charge of $3.99 you can use a set of interactive tools to shape your behavior with regard to the role your phone plays in your life. I have had several of my clients change their behavior with regard to their iPhone by using Moment.
Most students are connected to technology 24/7. Every week from sundown Friday till sundown Saturday students can completely power down all connections with technology and the world and focus on connecting with family and friends. While the timing might not be great for every family, I do feel that it gives students (and parents) a break in time to focus on those close to them, as well as appreciate how technology gives them the chance to connect with others worldwide.
Balancing time spent online and offline is important. Too much time spent online may lead to neglecting other important aspects of life. Encourage students to use their Internet activities as a reward for completing other meaningful and necessary tasks. For instance, if your student plays video games online, then they may use that video game as a reward for finishing their homework, an important assignment, or some personal chore required of them at home.
Students can easily use the timer on their cell phones to remind them to take a break from the “screen”. Unplugging every 50 minutes or so is good for multiple reasons. It gives the eyes a break from the screen. It gives students a reason to move around and not become stiff from sitting for too long. Getting up to get a snack or stretch also increases the likelihood of having a conversation with someone offline that may not have happened otherwise.
Parents can also make a rule that mealtimes and bedtime are times when teens must check in their phones with a parent. Teens are texting in the middle of the night and getting interrupted and/or not enough sleep. When family members eat dinner together, they should talk to one another and not text or surf on their phones.
Developing a healthy balance between time spent online and offline is about understanding the value that being online provides. Students should spend as much time online as it is valuable.
If you’re a student who needs to spend ample time reading and studying material that doesn’t require internet usage, most time spent online is only for leisure and thus, should be treated as such. If the internet is important to your work, then you should spend an amount of time online that correlates directly to the work you need to get done.
One trick I find useful is avoiding using my laptop for online leisure. That way, I’m constantly reinforcing an association with my laptop that is wholly work related. If I want to mess around or take a break, I use my cell phone.