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10 Screen Time Management Tips to Prevent Addiction

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With an ever-increasing growth and development of technology, it has become normal to do most of your socializing on a phone, computer, or TV screen. This also makes it easy for students of all ages to become addicted to screens. While screen time can be a way for students to have a creative outlet, unwind, and connect with friends and family, it is important to set boundaries with your students to ensure they have a healthy relationship with screens and a balanced lifestyle.

Screen time is something students will need to balance into adulthood. It is important to work with your students to set healthy boundaries now. We asked the experts what students need to know to manage screen time. These tips will help students learn how to better manage their screen usage so they can avoid addiction and focus on things that are meaningful and impactful to them.

Why do students want to be on screens?

  • Screen time is a way for students to connect with their friends and family, especially if they do not have a phone with data
  • Students enjoy the creative outlet and self expression social media offers
  • Social media helps students express their opinions and have a voice
  • Students are able to lead and collaborate with others through online gaming

Why should parents & educators care?

  • Online gaming and social media apps are designed to keep students’ attention and stay on the screen
  • Too much screen time may alter students’ mood and prevent them from getting enough physical activity
  • Students may be staying up past their bedtime, missing out on important sleep because they are on their screen

What can parents & educators do?

  • Set screen time boundaries with your student using a media agreement
  • Set up screen time limits and other safety features using the parental controls on your students’ device(s)
  • Help your student learn to be productive during their screen time and spend less time passively scrolling on their devices
  • Discuss goals with your student and have a dialogue to determine how screen time can hinder or help them achieve their goals

Social Media Addiction Tips from Josh Ochs

1. Get your students into the habit of self regulating their own screen time

Josh Ochs, SmartSocial.com

Josh Ochs headshot
Josh Ochs

Some signs that parents need to monitor:

  • 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 and physical 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, such as:
  • ~Learning how to program
  • ~Building an online resume
  • ~Monitoring your digital footprint

2. Have your student participate in extracurricular activities that don’t involve technology

Dusan Stanar, Founder & CEO, VSS Monitoring

Dusan Stanar headshot
Dusan Stanar

Extracurricular activities, interests, and hobbies are beneficial for your student because they provide opportunities for them to meet new people and learn new skills while having fun. As a result, they are gaining an excellent approach to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Extracurricular activities can include whatever your student is interested in doing outside of school, such as sports, drama, Scouts and Guides, or hobbies such as crafting or photography. They can also be activities such as language classes, music, debate, religious education, swimming, community activities, or both paid and unpaid jobs

3. Start helping teens see their strengths

Howard Barker, Community Liaison

Headshot of Howard Barker
Howard Barker

Negative impacts of device addiction:

One of the first problems that we see is that teens have the ability to create a false image and persona. If the teen doesn’t have the self-confidence, tools and the ability to interact with the world in a healthy way, social media gives them a great outlet and a great avenue to give them a completely new image and persona to deal with the world. They are not forced to become “okay” with who they are and learn how to communicate with other people. This also has an impact on the way that teens look at themselves now that they compare themselves on a global scale with everyone around them. Teenage girls used to compare themselves to their friend groups at school, but now they compare themselves to women around the world using photo editing software and this negatively impacts their self-esteem and self-image.

Teenagers are heavily influenced by what is around them. A big part of their moral compass and what they find acceptable on a daily basis comes from what their peers are doing. Outlandish behavior on social media gets better responses than behavior such as studying, so this outlandish behavior becomes normalized.

Help teens find their strengths:

What we try to do is address the underlying issue. With teenagers, in particular, a lot of it has to do with self-esteem. When you start helping teenagers see their value interpersonally with their peers and in their family, when you start helping them to see their strengths, it can go a long way in dealing with this issue where they feel like they have to “check out” from life.

We have a saying with recovery that is: uncover, discover, and discard. So first it’s about figuring out what things you are struggling with. What are the stories that you are telling yourself and what are the ways that you put yourself down? Then you look at that stuff and figure out why you feel that way and then you discard it. Let it go and replace it with something positive. Once teenagers start doing this, they don’t get that same rush from an Instagram like on a photo because they have more self-esteem and they don’t need that negative self-validation as much.

4. Turn off unnecessary notifications

Michael Robinson, Security Expert, Cheap SSL

Michael Robinson headshot
Michael Robinson

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, 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.

5. Stop taking your phone to bed

Jeroen van Gils, Managing Director at Lif

Jeroen van Gils headshot
Jeroen van Gils

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.

6. Make screen time active to enhance hobbies

Caroline Allams, CCO, Natterhub

Caroline Allams
Caroline Allams

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 and have screen time limits– 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 screen time limits and 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.

Have a family meeting to check the parental settings on your devices 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 important to limit screen time and 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.

7. Fill the empty spaces

Estelle Nkolo, Blogger, Single Parenting in Style

Estelle Nkolo
Estelle Nkolo

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 tweens 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 students may be addicted to screens:

  • 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 on their video game consoles or watching TV without interruption, except for a quick bathroom break
  • Are never hungry when they are on their screen, they are so focused that they do not feel hunger or want to go to the dinner table to eat
  • 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 set limits and 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 or physical activities

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, painting, dance, or anything that they will be absorbed by

8. Teens who suffer from screen addiction compulsively check their phones

GinaMarie Guarino, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

GinaMarie Guarino headshot
GinaMarie Guarino

Nowadays, it is perfectly normal to do at least half of your socializing on a phone, computer, or TV screen. Teens engage with people while playing video games and on social media platforms 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 accounts. They will feel anxious and possibly distressed if they are not getting instant gratification from social media platforms 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, it is a good time to 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 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.

9. Do one healthy thing together as a family that doesn’t involve screens for screen time management

Dr. J Paul Rand, Education Leader

Dr. J. Paul Rand headshot
Dr. J Paul Rand

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 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

10. Make an effort to understand how your student is spending their screen time

Ana Jovanovic, Parenting Pod

Ana Jovanovic headshot
Ana Jovanovic

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 online. 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. Examples are 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 or video game consoles, 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 and have a good time. 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 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, physical activity, 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

Additional Resources

Google Family Link Guide for Parents & Educators

Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls for Android

Making Screen Time Fun While Reducing the Negative Impact

100+ Offline Activities to Reduce Screen Time

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Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

StarStarStarStarStar

Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

StarStarStarStarStar

Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

StarStarStarStarStar

Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Learn more

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