19 Screen Time Management Tips to Prevent Addiction
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Students of all ages have access to screen time, whether it’s watching Saturday morning cartoons, FaceTiming relatives, or using social media to talk to their friends. It’s becoming more important than ever to help your student develop a healthy relationship with technology, help them learn screen time management techniques, and monitor them for red flags that might indicate that they are addicted to screens.
So, we asked 19 experts to share screen time addiction warning signs and how parents can help their students develop a healthy relationship with screens.
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1. Address your screen time management before condemning theirs
Alex Magnin, CEO & Founder of Alex Magnin
In a family situation, when trying to manage screen time intake, it is really important that parents address their own behaviors as well. Asking why certain things are ok for you and not for them is likely the first response you will get back. Try introducing something simple to start, such as leaving all of your phones on the kitchen table overnight, meaning no phone scrolling for anyone before bed or when they first wake up.
Many mental health professionals believe this is a healthier way to start the day anyway so there are multiple benefits, but make sure that you are also partaking in the exercise so it feels like something normal that the entire family will be doing. Start showing your student that they don’t have to constantly check what is happening on their screen, which will hopefully mean they generally start checking less when they do have the device.
2. Get your students into the habit of self regulating their own screen time
Josh Ochs, SmartSocial.com
Some signs that parents need to monitor for are:
- Increasing priority given to screens to the extent that screen time activities take precedence over other life interests and daily activities
- Continuation or escalation of screen time despite the occurrence of negative consequences
How to develop positive screen time habits:
- Remind yourself that having a cell phone, tablet, or computer is something to use in moderation
- Find offline activities that you would be proud to share on your college resume. Spending time on those activities will give you positive content you can post online
- Prioritize positive offline hobbies, school, social activities, sports, and family time above screen time
- Get in the habit of following your screen time guidelines and self-regulating your screen time
- Find activities you can do digitally while still being productive, like:
- Learning how to program
- Building an online resume
- Monitoring your digital footprint
3. Create a checklist that has to be completed before screen time
Alice Anderson, Founder, Mommy to Mom & How She Golfs
I came across something on Facebook once that showed a list of chores a student needed to do before their mom would give them the wifi password as a screen time management technique. Since my 13-year-old daughter was spending too much time on her computer, I decided to try my own version. She has to make her bed, get dressed for school, eat breakfast, and complete her reading for the day before she is allowed to go online. Usually, she doesn’t make it through everything before it’s time for school so there ends up being no screen time in the morning.
When she finishes school, the rule is no internet before dinner or until after homework is completed. This has really worked out well for us because it minimizes arguments since she knows what to expect. It also helps with the stress of things getting done last minute or forgotten about because she has to do her work first before she can have free time.
I’ve noticed a positive change in her attitude and she actually admitted that she likes how our days are structured now because it helps her get things done.
4. Learn the triggers that make you consume social media
Matt Weidle, Business Development Manager, Buyer’s Guide
Raising your self-awareness of addictive usage habits can aid in the management of your digital consumption. You can achieve this by identifying applications that we use frequently and recognizing the triggers that cause us to consume excessively.
Reflecting on emotional and cognitive processing can also help you gain self-awareness. This entails identifying the emotions and psychological requirements that underpin excessive internet usage.
A problematic idea that leads to greater screen time is, ‘If I don’t respond to a group conversation right away, I’ll lose my popularity.’ Reflecting on the reality of such thoughts can help people break free from their digital addictions.
5. Create a hybrid solution of technology mixed with an offline activity
Miklos Zoltan, CEO & Cybersecurity Researcher, Privacy Affairs
Recognize your personal triggers. Self-awareness of addictive usage patterns can actually assist us in identifying unmet requirements that lead to digital overuse. We can prepare the way for alternate behaviors and interests to satisfy those needs in new ways if we do this.
For example, mindfulness meditation could be an alternative to easing tension, anxieties, or worry that leads to technology overuse. If you think your digital overuse is due to boredom, physical activity, cooking, or taking up offline activities can all provide alternatives to screen time.
Again, technology can assist with this, such as allowing you to create online groups for simultaneous exercise, resulting in a hybrid solution to bad digital habits.
6. Include exercise into all your routines
Chana Charach, Chief Financial Officer, Income.ca
Physical activity maintains adolescent bodies and minds in good shape. Every day, your child should engage in at least one hour of moderate to strenuous physical activity. This could include activities such as walking or riding a bike to school, sports such as netball and football, or organized fitness activities such as exercise classes, swimming, and jogging.
Physical activity does not just happen for many young people; they must arrange a balance between it and other activities, including screen time management.
7. Have your student participate in extracurricular activities that don’t involve technology
Dusan Stanar, Founder & CEO, VSS Monitoring
Extracurricular activities, interests, and hobbies are beneficial for your student because they provide opportunities for him or her to meet new people and learn new skills while having fun. As a result, they are an excellent approach to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Extracurricular activities can include whatever your student is interested in doing outside
of schools, such as sports, drama, Scouts, and Guides, or hobbies such as crafting or photography, among other things. They can also be activities that you have encouraged your student to participate in, such as language classes, music, debate, religious education, swimming, community activities, or both paid and unpaid jobs.
8. Turn off unnecessary notifications
Michael Robinson, Security Expert, Cheap SSL
All notifications should be turned off. Do-Not-Disturb (DND) mode is available on both Android and iOS devices, and it may be used to turn off all notifications on your phone. This DND setting will prevent you from using your phone and finding balance with your screen time management.
All you have to do is enable DND, and all notifications will be silenced as a result. You’ll be able to read all of your alerts the next time you use your device. Make sure you’re doing something else to keep yourself occupied so you don’t feel compelled to use your phone.
9. Stop taking your phone to bed
Jeroen van Gils, Managing Director at Lif
The biggest no-no in the digital world is taking your electronics to bed. Before going to bed, most of us are accustomed to utilizing our phones, laptops, and tablets. This has a significant negative impact on our health.
The artificial light released from our phone or laptop screen, particularly blue light, is exceedingly damaging to our sleep quality. Sleep deprivation is linked to a slew of health problems. So, if you have a habit of scrolling through your Instagram feed before bed, it’s time to switch to a book and develop the habit of reading before bed.
10. Use parental controls
Christian Velitchkov, Co-Founder, Twiz IO
Tweens and teens nowadays have their entire life on a screen. Be it laptop, phone, or television, they are always exposed to a screen. Screen time management is therefore now a huge demand.
Every phone has inbuilt parental controls that you can use to limit your student’s app usage based on time. Set the limit to whatever you see fit. For example, allow the phone to use Instagram for only two hours every day. Once your student uses the app for two hours, it will automatically lock itself and not open until the next day. Once all their apps are locked for the day, they won’t have much to do on it.
11. Create digital boundaries
Alejandra Marqués, Your Plan A
Phones, laptops, and other screens are taking away our time, and most importantly, they are taking away reality. This is why we should all have digital boundaries and manage our time more healthily.
Here are three tips for better screen time management:
- Track your screen time use. Most of the time people are not even aware of how much time they’re spending on their phones. If you ask them, they will say: “Oh, probably I’m about 3 hours per day on my phone,” but then they look at the settings and realize that they were spending about 10 hours per day on their phones. This is a great awareness awakening tool. All you need to do is go to settings on your phone and search for your screen time report.
- Set limits. A great feature on phones is that you can establish time limits for each app you’re using. Set realistic, yet desirable limits and be honest with yourself once your time is over.
- Create a new habit. Applying the previous tips will allow you to have more free time, trust me, most people can gain back three hours per day just by following this. Now that you have all this extra time, you need to create new habits, develop a hobby, start a project, or take time to interact in real life with your family and friends. The possibilities now are limitless.
12. Take addiction signs seriously
Harriet Chan, Co-Founder, Coco Finder
Being sneaky about electronic device usage is one of the screen time addiction warning signs to look out for in tweens and teens. If you have ever caught your students hiding to use their phones or laptops after lights out or when they should be doing chores or homework, that’s an indication they need screen time management. You can handle such a situation by being a good example and cutting down your screen time and holding off on introducing screens.
Along with self-monitoring and open discussions with your teen about screen time use and alternate activities, you can use monitoring applications such as Spyic, FoneMonitor, or TeenSafe to constantly watch over your teenager. These apps allow parents to view all the smartphone activities, know how much time they spend online, websites they visit, and even block access to some, but cannot replace building a relationship with the students to help them learn and practice good behaviors.
13. Make screen time active to enhance hobbies
Caroline Allams, CCO, Natterhub
The most important thing to consider is whether students are getting ‘active’ or ‘passive’ screen time.
Playing interactive games (particularly educational ones, but even something creative like Minecraft), using videos like Joe Wicks’ online P.E. sessions, or reading books on an e-reader are all examples of ‘active’ screen time. Scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or Twitter, or watching gamers on YouTube or Twitch, are examples of ‘passive’ screen time which should be kept to a sensible minimum – a couple of hours a day at most. They’re not bad in small doses, especially if your student finds them entertaining or relaxing, but balance is key.
So what can parents do at home to make sure students don’t waste their time in front of a screen? The most effective thing you can do is lead by example: try to establish a set screen-free time during the day where your students are encouraged to do other activities, and make sure that you put your devices to bed in order to promote better sleep patterns.
Check the parental settings on your devices if you want to establish a hard limit on how long your student can use them. You could try giving your students the opportunity to ‘earn’ more screen time – say by doing chores around the house – but it’s important to make sure that students learn to self-regulate. They need to ask themselves: “Am I getting the most out of this time?”
It’s also important to get your students interested in other activities that don’t involve screens. Exercise is essential: if you’re lucky enough to have a back garden, or you live close by to a public park, take a walk and get some fresh air. If you don’t have an outdoor space, try doing dance routines, yoga, or simple stretches to keep fit. Meditate to relax your body as well as your mind. Read a new book, try cooking or baking, or take up a new hobby like crochet or calligraphy!
You can even use your devices to enhance some of these hobbies. If your student is proud of the story they’ve written or the model they’ve built, encourage them to take a picture or a video and share it online with their friends! Find exercise routines and recipes online, or use apps like FaceTime and Zoom to keep in touch with family members.
Whatever you do, always remember that important word: balance.
14. Fill the empty spaces
Estelle Nkolo, Blogger, Single Parenting in Style
Screen time is a big concern as a parent. We have so much to do that sometimes we are just tempted to give a screen to our tween to entertain them when we can’t. But some researchers have highlighted that tweens with too much screen time may perform less at school and that too much screen time may alter the development of their brains.
Warning signs that your student may be addicted to screen are they:
- Don’t have any idea of what to do if you shut down the screens
- Are angry and even aggressive if you take their screens from them
- Can spend an entire day playing their video games or watching TV without interruption, except a quick break for toilets
- Are never hungry when they are on their screen, they are so focused that they do not feel hunger
- Can’t stop right away if you ask them to, they will argue and try to get more time on their screens
- Will find creative ways to have access to their screens (wake up when everyone is sleeping, hide their tablets where the parent will not find them to keep them from them)
Strategies to address this issue and manage screen time adequately are based on a simple principle: fill the empty spaces.
Our students are interested in their screens because they don’t have other areas of interest. When we were young, we did not have smartphones but we were happy playing and we didn’t feel empty… so what parents need to do is create alternatives.
Step 1: Limit accessibility to the screens
- Limit screen time to the minimum so that they have more time to do other activities
- Keep their screens with you when they are not allowed to have them
Step 2: Fill the void
- Play with them. Play social games, talk, swim, do activities that don’t involve a screen
- Involve them in your day to day activities at home such as cooking
Step 3: Develop their interests in other activities
- Find what they like apart from screens. My son, for example, likes to read so I will always have a subscription to the library and keep him busy reading
- Develop other interests – like piano, paint, dance, anything that they will be absorbed by
15. Teens who suffer from screen addiction compulsively check their phones
GinaMarie Guarino, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Screen addiction is a condition that is rising among tweens and teens in the United States and around the world. With the growth and development of technology, students of all ages are becoming addicted to screens and the internet.
Nowadays, it is perfectly normal to do at least half of your socializing on a phone, computer, or TV screen. Teens engage with people, games, and social media constantly throughout the day, and are exposed to advertisements that encourage more and more screen time. Parents should be aware of the warning signs that their students are suffering from screen addiction.
If your teen does not socialize or have an interest in face-to-face interaction with friends and siblings and insists on constantly being on their phone or computer, they are at risk of suffering from screen addiction.
If they constantly have their phones out and are disinterested or disengaged with what is going on around them, then they are likely suffering from screen addiction. Teens who suffer from screen addiction will compulsively check their phones and social media accounts. They will feel anxious and possibly distressed if they are not getting instant gratification from social media or games. They will struggle to socialize in real life and will seem lost and agitated if their screen privileges are revoked.
One of the best ways to prevent a teen from developing a screen addiction is to minimize their access to screens. Taking away or limiting interaction with any sort of screen from the beginning will prevent your teen from becoming dependent or reliant on screen time. If you are beginning to see the warning signs, take immediate steps to reduce their exposure to screens, and redirect their attention to productive after-school and social activities.
It can also be helpful to have a conversation with your teen about social media safety, and if you have a younger student, to closely monitor their behavior on all screen accounts. Having access to social media too young not only puts your tween in danger of falling victim to online predators and cyberbullies, but it prevents them from learning critical social skills. Limiting social media access at a young age will reduce the motivation to stay on screens, and they will seek other means of socializing and making friends as a result.
16. Your student’s mood changes when screen time is over
Dr. Catherine Jackson, Licensed Psychologist and Neurotherapist
Screens and modern technology have many benefits. However, too much screen time may cause changes in the brain and can also lead to other problems such as obesity and sleep difficulties.
Sleep difficulties, which can be caused by too much screen time, in and of itself leads to an array of other problems. These include brain cells dying, the difficulty for brain cells to communicate with each other, attention, focus, and memory issues to name a few. All of these can affect academic performance.
Some of the warning signs that your student may be addicted to screen time and may require some changes to be made around its use include:
- They have a difficult time getting off screens even when they are given time warnings. For example, if you tell them they have 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and now it is time to turn off the screen and they continue its use or you physically have to turn off the screen yourself. This may be a sign that changes need to be made around screen time use.
- When screen time is over or turned off your student’s mood changes. They are happy while using screens (video games, watching TV, on a mobile phone, etc.). However, once the use of the device is over, your student becomes very angry, name-calling, cursing, hitting others including you, and/or has a meltdown, this is a major sign your student is likely addicted to screens. Major family conflicts and changes in emotions should not occur because your student can no longer use screens.
- If your student only uses screens and no longer engages in any other activities, or refuses to try non-screen-based activities, addiction to screens may be present. Screens to the exclusion of everything else is not a healthy habit.
However, you can teach your student to self-regulate themselves and their screen time. Teach your student, as with nearly everything in life, there are limits to screen time. Set boundaries around when screen time can occur and when it cannot, how long your student is able to have screen time, and the consequences when screen time rules are broken or they exhibit poor behavior as a result of screen time. With limits and regular practice, self-regulated screen time becomes a regular part of the day-to-day routine.
So what to do with all that extra time that screen time occupied? Encourage your student to read, play board games, engage in family time, participate in hobbies, volunteer, and join clubs, preferably ones that promote socialization with peers.
Parents can also create a visual reward system in which students earn tokens they can later trade in for screen time. The nice thing about this is your student can see their progress and know when they have enough tokens to earn screen time. It also puts the power in the student’s hands as they can see how they control if they earn a token or not by the behaviors and actions they choose. Talk to your student about the expected behaviors that will lead to tokens. You may set times when tokens can be redeemed, such as only on the weekends.
Not all screen time is bad or harmful. For example, your family can watch a movie together at home or at the theater. However, be mindful of it and consciously choose when screen time will and will not occur to help students manage its use and their self-regulation of it.
17. Do one healthy thing together as a family that doesn’t involve screens for screen time management
Dr. J Paul Rand, Education Leader
Medical centers across the nation are inundated with young adults struggling to overcome years of anxiety, depression, and other concerning issues at rates our nation never encountered prior to unrestricted screen time.
Signs of screen time addiction:
- Social withdrawal. When your student sits on a couch for hours on their tablet or phone, this is not normal behavior. Most doctors suggest an hour of screen time a day.
- When a student struggles to hold pens at a young age but can operate a smartphone better than you; or when their sleep habits are outside of a 7-8 am rise and 8-9 pm sleep routine.
- When neither you nor your student can finish reading a short book due to a lack of attention.
- When a student’s outbursts are so extreme when a tech device is taken, the focus shifts to ensuring they do not hurt themselves.
- Or, when a student can not complete a statement without checking their phone; or when they cannot participate in a hands-on event without recording it to share online.
Tips for preventing screen addiction and helping students who are struggling:
- Interact: Get down at their level, crawl around, and play games on the floor
- Lead by example: Spend 30 minutes daily writing in a journal and be sure they see it. Encourage them to follow suit by buying them a really nice pen and a really nice paper journal
- Do one healthy thing together: Does not matter their age whether they’re 17 months or 17 years old. Take time for a brisk walk, some light stretching. Talk and listen to them
- Read and let them see you doing so: Read physical books, not an electronic device, and read stories together
18. Students should be open to activities that are not screen-related
Reuben Yonatan, GetVOIP
If your student gets irritable at even the mention of an activity that doesn’t involve a phone, that’s a huge red flag! That isn’t to say that every time you suggest taking their phone away when they’re actively engaged in something means that they are addicted – none of us like being interrupted. However, your student should be open to activities that are not phone-related. If you are having trouble with separating them from screens, I highly suggest more outside time.
Be sure to lead by example. We all know the saying, “do as I say, not as I do”. That exists for a reason – students watch their parents and other adults, so it’s time we put our phones down and start leading by example.
If you are a busy professional, do your best to finish all work-related communications before you get home, and turn your phone off before even entering the house. If you simply can’t draw that line, at least keep your phone out of sight. It may feel a bit deceptive, but you are trying to model positive behavior for your developing student.
19. Make an effort to understand how your student is spending their screen time
Ana Jovanovic, Parenting Pod
Some screen addiction warning signs are:
- Screen time is taking most of their free time
- Taking their electronics away causes frustration, anger, or anxiety
- They find it hard to organize their play without electronics
- Students tend to neglect their other interests because of electronics
- They lose track of time when they’re playing video games or watching TV shows
- Screen time is distracting them from their responsibilities
- Screen time is not necessarily as enjoyable, as much as it gives them something to do
- They tend to play on their own (and not make it a social activity, with friends or family)
- It’s difficult for them to focus on anything but electronics
- They find most things to be boring
How can parents help prevent screen addiction?
- Walk the talk
Don’t tell your student how damaging screen time is, and then spend the whole evening on social media. As a parent, make sure you practice what you preach.
- Establish family rules and agreements
Having family rules around using electronics can help manage the amount of time spent with screens. One example is not to use electronics when you’re all eating together. Or, no phones after bedtime. It’s important that the rules apply to all family members and that together, you hold each other accountable. However, just taking away electronics doesn’t make much difference if the time is not filled with other equally entertaining activities. This is why it is a good idea to organize family movie or game nights, visit places, or volunteer together.
- Make an effort to understand what your students are spending time on
Before you judge the amount of time your student spends with screens, make sure you make an effort to understand how it is spent. If you are on their case about screen time without showing any interest in what they are playing, watching, or listening to, they are likely to think that you don’t really get why it is necessary for them to spend so much time next to the screens. Have them show you how a game is played or what youtube videos make them laugh. Sit with them through an episode of their favorite TV show and try to get to know the characters.
- Introduce them to fun and useful ways to use technology
The solution is not to take away their phones or stop them from binge-watching new TV series. Instead, show them interesting ways to use technology that relates to their interests. Do they love gaming? Have them take an introductory course in game design. Do they spend too much time watching TV? Watch a show, movie, or documentary that is educational and fun and that is connected to their interests.
- Help them explore ways to organize their free time
I have worked with many students who don’t know what to do with their free time other than play games or watch videos and TV shows. Logging in to play a game or turning on the TV requires minimal effort and is stimulating most of the time. Helping them understand the ways in which they can organize their time better can help decrease the amount of screen time. Variations of DIY projects, extracurriculars, sports and clubs at school, legos, puzzles, books, time with friends and family – support them in figuring out what they enjoy doing when they are not using the screen.
There are several warning signs that your child may be addicted to screens. When you monitor your student for a change in their moods brought on by screen time (or by limiting screen time) it will be easier for you to intervene and keep them safe. While the goal shouldn’t be to ban social media entirely, instead parents should teach their students to develop a healthy relationship with screen time.
What are some red flags that a student might be addicted to screens and how do you help them build a healthy relationship with technology? Let us know in the comments below!
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