Much has been reported in regards to young people, screen time, the effects of phone use, and social media connections, especially among teenagers. Whether your child is 4 or 14, you are probably conflicted about their habits and how to better influence them without going to war.
Screen time can impact social and intellectual development. For example, it takes the brain longer to refocus after the type of rapid light and sound stimulation phones provide. Social interactions are a learning time for preteens, yet many slink into the safety of their devices instead of fostering relationships and learning social cues.
Perhaps this is why cyberbullying has been on the increase: its harder to be mean to someone when face to face, as opposed to hiding behind the perceived safety of a device. Some psychologists even report that too much time online erodes our capacity for empathy. And then there is the addiction to video games, whose signs can parallel those of drug dependence.
As school leaders, we've learned that there are no concrete guidelines for screen time use, but we continue to hear your concerns, and we have many of our own. We support the balanced use of personal digital devices that can allow families some level of security with movement to and from school, managing after-school activities, and sharing moments in the evening backstage at performances or on the sidelines of sporting events. But as a parent myself, I know it's easier said than done.
The key word is "balance."
Here are a few suggestions to ponder:
Have conversations with your children about screen time and set limits.
Identify "tech-free times" such as during dinner and at bedtime, including putting phones in drawers overnight for all family members to prevent the temptation to check email or texts at bedtime and in the middle of the night.
Strive for balance and identify time for schoolwork, reading, sports, and family time. The website Common Sense Media has a great Family Media Agreement that is a good start.
Put off giving kids phones until they are in the 8th grade, as part of the "Wait Until 8th" campaign that was recently profiled on The Today Show.
Walk the walk and put your phone away during dinner time and in the car. Be a good role model for your children.
The Child Obesity Foundation recommends a daily 5-2-1-0 approach: 5 servings of fruit/vegetables, no more than 2 hours of screen time, 1 hour of physical activity, and no sugary beverages.
Want more information?
Join us: Screenagers Showing
On Thursday evening, March 22nd, DUSD will show the film Screenagers, starting at 6 pm at the Board Room - District Office. Screenagers is a 68-minute movie that explores the impact of the digital age on children and how to help them minimize the harmful effects and find balance. Parents who have viewed the movie say they feel more confident and better equipped to establish balance around screen time. For more information on Screenagers, please visit
Still looking for more?
The non-profit website Common Sense Media is one of the most reliable sources for recommendations for parents and students, as well as a repository for reviews on video games, movies, music, books and more.
Common Sense Media
improves the lives of kids and families by providing independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media.
See you at the screening!
Dr. Lisa Gonzales
Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services