7 Ways Parents Can Teach Teens to Have Productive Screen Time

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September 15, 2016

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


Sharon M.

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7 Ways Parents Can Teach Teens to Have Productive Screen Time an Expert Guest Blog SmartSocial.com

Digital-safety experts and parents share their best advice for teaching students how to be productive during screen time[/caption]Screen time for tweens and teens is a fact of life these days. A study by the Pew Research Center showed that 55% of parents have limited the amount of times or time that their teen spends online daily. With students spending so much time staring at screens it is important to teach them that–although it can be fun to play games or socialize during screen time–their time is better spent when they focus on using their screen time wisely and productively. We reached out to 7 digital-safety experts and parents to get their best advice for teaching students how to learn and be productive during screen time.

1. Teach self-moderation

Jennifer Taylor, founder of Mom Tricks

Jennifer Taylor headshot
Jennifer Taylor

We don't limit screen time at all. Instead, we try to teach our kids self-control and balance. For example, we ask them what they think an appropriate amount of time spent on the computer, video games and cellphones should be and encourage them to follow their own guidelines. I believe this approach helps set a foundation of self-moderation that is crucial going into adulthood. I also believe that imposing limits on them makes them want to use their forbidden devices even more!

2. Don’t allow devices at the dinner table

Chris Brantner, founder of Cut Cable Today

Chris Branter headshot
Chris Brantner

With a teenager and a 7 year old, you can imagine monitoring screen time is tricky. And there are different rules for each of them; however, we have one rule that applies to the entire household. Absolutely no devices at dinner. Whether we are eating at the table at home, or out at a restaurant, dinner time is family time. When we share a meal, we are all expected to interact with one another, not a device. If you aren't interacting when you are face to face at a table, when do you ever? Other than that, the kids keep their devices in a central location in the family room at bedtime. I've found it's too tempting for them to turn over at night and poke around on their devices when they should be sleeping. Kids need their rest to do well in school, plain and simple, so it's my job to make sure they get it.

3. Block distractions

John Wu, CEO of Gryphon Online Safety

John Wu headshot
John Wu

Temporarily block distractions like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram with easy-to-download browser apps. Take it one step further by moving your child’s smartphone to another room while they are studying. At the dinner table, talk about the power of distractions with the whole family. Bring up how distracting screens can be. If kids have to watch Youtube videos for homework, try quietube it just plays the video and nothing else.

4. Show how screen time can be productive

Dr. Lisa Strohman, founder of Technology Wellness Center

Dr. Lisa Strohman headshot
Dr. Lisa Strohman

Create a homework program for your child where they do 15 minutes of homework without interruption then allow a technology break for 5 minutes. This teaches time management. Encourage your child to organize a group that works on homework through FaceTime or Skype. This shows children the benefit of working together and how these tools can be used for productivity and efficiency, not just socializing. Next time your child asks you to help them with a project lead by example and intentionally grab your phone and start tweeting or emailing. When they become frustrated, discuss the impact of this distracted behavior.

5. Lead by example

Justin Lavelle, Director at BeenVerified

Justin Lavelle headshot
Justin Lavelle

Electronics are a part of almost every child’s life today. Even schools use electronics as an educational tool for students. When your kids are begging for screen time at home, compromise with them. Set a time limit and stick to it. Agree to half the time being spent on an educational app and the other half of the time is their choice, such as, a parent-approved game or social app. There are so many amazing apps available for kids for reading, math, history, and science and they make learning fun for your kids. Screen time doesn’t have to be a negative thing.Parents should own the passwords for each electronic and change them regularly. Only allow your kids the password once chores and homework are complete. It’s also important that parents model the behavior they are expecting from their kids. If the kids see parents on their phones or iPads all the time, they will expect to as well.

6. Create a screen time log

Murray Suid, cofounder of Mobile Movie Making

Murray Suid headshot
Murray Suid

When students go online, they could keep a log of the sites they visit and the time they spend on the sites. For example, if a student is reading a Wikipedia article on gravitation as background for a report, she should write the URL, the time signed on, the time signed off, a summary of the material and any next steps.

7. Set weekday screen time limits

Stephanie O'Leary Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Stephanie O'Leary headshot
Stephanie O'Leary

‍We stick to a 10-minute, educational-site-only daily limit during the week and he knows what he's responsible for doing before he asks for that time (homework, chores, play outside). That said, my best parenting tip is to offer an extra 10-minutes of screen time if your child 'earns it'.

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