Teaching Students How To Manage Screen Time

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Teaching Students How To Manage Screen Time

April 25, 2017
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Table of Contents

Teaching Students How to Manage Screen Time

We asked 6 experts how parents and educators can help students manage their screen time, how to be safer online and how to Shine Online.

1. Learn positive methods for teaching kids how to manage screen time

Zahir Robb, Star Prep Academy

Headshot of Zahir Robb
Zahir Robb

More and more, colleges are looking at ways to access the huge amount of applications that they see. The number of applications coming through are getting higher and higher: in some cases, we’re pushing a hundred thousand.

But, college admission officers have to go through a large number of applicants in a quick amount of time. As much as they do their best to go through a holistic review of each application, a quick Google search can yield a lot too.

I think that speaks to how people, once again, manage their time. It’s being effective with that time that they use, and to not waste that time. So rather than be users and consumers, we would like to see students be productive in the time that they use.

There are many things students can do to still satisfy that digital desire that they have, but still be productive. So whether it’s building their own website, apps, whatever that may be, it's important to use that time that they have online or with technology to be productive.

I think that really sends a message out to do a quick Google search of your name, to see what their results show. It’s important that you control and curate your own online profile, rather than let others dictate what people see about you. The more productive you can be, the more you can control that dialogue, the more you control those top results.

I think it’s talking them through this process, and finding out what they’re sharing, and highlighting all the good things that they do. Making sure when they do reference those things, they are giving thank-yous to the organization, thank-yous to those people they work with, reinforce that it’s a team concept. Encourage them to really look at what they post, and try to be positive about it.

I think too often, we share the Twitter rant or a complaint on Yelp or whatever it may be. We can all tend to be negative online but try turning it into a more positive space. I think that’s where I really reach all of our students, let’s try and take that narrative that the internet is this dangerous and evil place and do our best–within our community anyways–to create a more positive environment.

Do that by posting more positive comments by your peers or friends, to boost their activities, and watch their videos and to like them, and to do whatever you can, rather than, just make them look foolish, whatever they typically do today, so just really building upon that positivity I think is essential.

2. Parents have to show that they can put the phone away when they’re sitting at the dinner table

Alon Shwartz
Alon Schwartz

Alon Schwartz, unGlue

The elephant in the room is that we parents lead by bad example.

For the most part, we will eat only McDonald's and ask our kids to eat healthily. This does not work!

Of course, we have an excuse, right? What it’s called is, “It's for work”, right? We use that excuse all the time. I mean, it's okay, “I'm on Facebook because it's for work, I’m Googling, it’s for work, that Netflix episode, it’s for work”.

So, we have to become better. We have to lead by better example. We have to show that we can put the phone away when we’re sitting at the dinner table, no more devices.

That’s something that I'm fighting everyday and it's hard, but we have to do it or we will be a family where everyone is on their devices even though we are all sitting together.

This is not an internet problem, not a social media problem, not a video problem, it's a time management problem. That is really what we talking about here, how to manage time. And it’s not like overnight they would just know how to manage their time. We have to start early, and I know it sounds crazy, that a six year can manage her time, she can’t even organize her room, but it’s habits. It takes years to establish those habits. So you need to start early on. Helping them understand time. Most adults don’t know how to manage their time, do we really expect a six or twelve year-old to manage her time by herself? We have to start early, helping them understand that concept.

3. It's important to remember that there's the real world and then there’s the online world

Headshot of Jill Simonian
Jill Simonian

Jill Simonian, TheFabMom.com

As parents, what's important, is to remember that there's the real world and then there’s the online world. Not only do we need to parent them in the real world, we also have to parent in the online world.

I will tell my kids “Okay, if something comes up on your tablet that is scary nasty or something bad you need to tell me, you'll tell me right?”

I pick up my daughter from school, she's in kindergarten, and the first question I ask her is to tell me three things that happened today: three good things and one bad thing, and she’ll tell me.

But, I think as they get older, the question should be “What happened at school today”, and then the other question should be, “What happened on Instagram today?”

Those conversations should start organically, and you specifically ask, okay, so in your digital world tell me one good thing and one bad thing that happened today.

I was in a kindergarten orientation yesterday and the occupational therapist came in, and what they told us parents, is that “We have to tell you guys, the past few years, we have seen a measurable decrease in hand gross, fine, motor skills with incoming children”, because they’re swiping, and they're not in the dirt, and they're not climbing. It's a physical thing. I'm not a doctor but I'm sure that it extends beyond the kindergarten age.

4. Students today are so over scheduled; help them find balance

Caren Rich, Hayutin & Associates

Headshot of Caren Rich
Caren Rich

I’ve seen a trend over the years: the seven year-olds I see today are so overscheduled, they have tennis, they have dance, there’s something every day of the week. They don't have any down time to just daydream.

And so, when they have all these activities, and then they go to the computer, by the time they're in fourth grade, because the fourth graders I see, after that, they have no executive functioning skills, they can't decide, they can't manage their time, they can't organize their papers. That's a big trend.

5. If we are spending too much time controlling technology, we're not allowing students to learn how to manage it

Headshot of Dolly Klock, MD
Dolly Klock

Dolly Klock, MD, Adolessons

Students are not just going to have to get through school, they’re going to have jobs, where they will have the same distractions. I think it’s about connecting with your child on this topic, and sharing what you have found to be pitfalls for yourself… I will talk to my kids about how “today I was just not as productive as I wanted to be”, and I’ll talk about what happened. Or I’ll talk about what works well for me.

"Today I put my phone on airplane mode, or I used the Freedom app, which is an app where you can shut down distracting websites.” It’s about being realistic about these distractions. This is very, very, real for a kid and we know there’s an evolutionary need for them to connect with their peers. That’s why they’re on their phones.

They just want to be with their peers, just the way we did when we were their age, we just didn’t have the same technology.

6. Students learn differently and are wired very differently

Erica Spiegelman, Radio MD

Erica Spiegelman
Erica Spiegelman

If somebody is showing addictive behaviors or getting lost in these black holes of social media very fast, then we have to be more mindful of how they are going to manage their time.


Parents and caregivers can help students learn and practice positive methods to manage screen time.

This post is an excerpt from the 2017 Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers, and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world.

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