HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILDREN MANAGE SCREEN TIME
By David Blank, Psy. D, Director of Psychological Servicess
In a world where technology has an ever-expanding reach - and apps, games, and social media are designed to lure us in and keep us hooked - helping our children develop healthy screen habits may be as important as teaching them how to read or ride a bike. This is especially true for children who learn differently or have attention issues, who often struggle with impulse control, distractibility, time management, and social interactions.
In several studies, excessive screen time has been linked to sleep issues, obesity, behavioral problems, and poor academic performance. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children limit their use of screens to a maximum of two hours per day.
Teaching children how to manage screen time is no easy feat. That said, there are several approaches that work well, especially when tailored to their needs and used consistently. Understanding your children's unique skill set and being sensitive to their challenges are necessary to create a supportive environment that will allow for success. Here are some effective strategies to help your children develop healthier screen habits.
The Home Environment
Our children are constantly looking to us as models for their own behavior. If we are attempting to get our kids involved in a competing activity such as reading, playing board games, or doing crafts, we need to create an environment that facilitates that behavior. This means we can't expect our children to remain engaged in a non-screen activity if there's a TV on in the background or if someone else at home is using a device. Setting aside times when no one in the home can use electronics is a great opportunity for family bonding. Moreover, everyone gets a much-needed break from technology, and an example is being set for our children.
TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT TECHNOLOGY
Have conversations with your children about the importance of unplugging from technology and tuning into the world around them. It's easy to forget what we're missing out on when we're perpetually glued to a screen. Technology has many benefits, and those should be discussed as well, but exploring some of its downsides will help your children understand why you are establishing limits on their screen use.
How you place limits and boundaries on screen time is very important. Sometimes when children do not understand why something is important, they tend to focus on how these new demands will impact their preferred routine. With this in mind, if you are thinking of establishing a technology schedule or creating a digital contract, make sure to include your children in the process. In this way, you are helping them feel a part of creating your family culture. It also helps them anticipate the outcomes of their behavior, especially if they've been involved in determining the rewards for adhering to the schedule or the consequences if they don't.
BEDTIME AND BEYOND
When transitioning to bedtime, it's important to have an established time when electronics will be turned off. Issuing a warning 30 minutes before bedtime is also helpful. I recommend removing electronics devices from children's bedrooms at night. In general, it might also be wise to keep electronics devices in common areas so that children can be supervised while using them. This can minimize risky online behavior.
As with any family issue, it is best to tackle screen time in a collaborative manner. Challenges are opportunities for growth and change. This may be hard to remember during stressful times, but by creating a supportive and predictable environment, we can help our children understand our expectations for their behavior.
At Eagle Hill, related services are not isolated entities; rather, they reflect our school’s goal of promoting an integrated approach to the development of the whole child.
Services are provided in several forms:
- For some students, services are provided in pull-outs, where a child meets with a specialist individually or in a small group session.
- Other services might be offered in a collaborative setting, where the specialist works in the classroom with teachers and students.
- Specialists also serve as consultants to teachers in a third form of service delivery.
All related service specialists ensure that their work with children is integrated with the rest of the child’s program by working in close consultation with teachers and advisors. They attend morning meetings about students and Friday afternoon In Service meetings, and communicate informally with teachers, advisors and parents.
The mission of the Speech and Language Department at Eagle Hill is to expand language-based communication skills for students who demonstrate diagnosed vulnerabilities in this area.
As the links between language and learning, and language and literacy are clear, so too is the mandate to provide strategic support in this language rich environment.
Every new student is screened by the Speech and Language department. The results of the screening are shared with the advisor and the teaching staff. Based on the results of the screening and information gathered during consultation with teachers and a child’s advisor, a program is designed to address the language needs of individual students.
Speech and language services are delivered in a number of formats. Most typically, therapy will be delivered in small group pull-out sessions for students who need intensive therapeutic services. These pull-out sessions are supplemented by collaborative sessions when the speech and language pathologist (SLP) will work in the classroom with students and their classroom teacher. This form of therapy helps to facilitate carryover of skills from small group therapy sessions to more general applications. The SLPs also serve as consultants to classroom teachers.
All SLPs at Eagle Hill are fully accredited by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the State of Connecticut.
The counseling staff of Eagle Hill is comprised of school psychologists, social workers, and school counselors; yet, all staff members are considered to be resources for providing social and emotional assistance to students.
The counseling staff provides services either indirectly via consultations with teachers, advisors and/or parents, or directly with the students themselves, either individually or in groups. All students can access the counseling staff as drop-ins, or through their teachers or their advisors for issues of a more immediate nature. Some students are assigned to counselors based on previous history, parent discussion, and/or as a result of advisor/teacher recommendation.
Counselors meet with students according to a schedule determined by the nature and scope of the presenting issues, usually in weekly, 40-minute sessions during the school day. Members of the counseling staff also frequently provide services in the classroom, facilitating discussions related to such topics as the nature and scope of learning disabilities, positive social relationships, and conflict resolution.
The Motor Training/OT Consultation program is designed to help students with fine and/or gross motor deficits improve skills, first in pull-out sessions (students are removed from class for sessions specific to their needs), and then throughout the general school day.
Typically, students new to Eagle Hill are screened by the motor training specialist. Based on this screening, students who will benefit from motor training are scheduled into small groups with other students with similar needs.
The areas of emphasis vary based on each individual, but major emphases can include: acquiring basic life skills (e.g., shoe tying, buttoning, zipping); increasing strength, endurance, and flexibility; participation in small group and/or leisure play activities (e.g., catch, jump rope); and basic team and social skills (e.g., greeting others, turn taking in games).
Motor training sessions typically occur twice a week for a 40-minute session each time. Occasionally a student will require an additional and more informal 20-minute session. The motor training specialist also works informally with students during recess periods, facilitating informal games and carry-over of skills instructed in pull-out sessions.
In addition to motor training, an occupational therapist (OT) consults with teachers twice a month. The OT observes students in the classroom and provides teachers with strategies that can be incorporated into daily instruction, so that sensory needs are being met. The OT also suggests materials that help support handwriting and keyboarding instruction, as well as those that will help meet the unique sensory needs of some of our students.