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  • Healthy Screen Habits for Elementary Schoolers

     Teaching our future generations healthy screen habits demands a thoughtful and proactive approach. As parents, we know it’s crucial to cultivate healthy screen habits in our little ones to ensure their overall well-being. But it is exhausting trying to keep up with the latest digital wellness and parental control apps, let alone navigate the EdTech used in schools (don’t get me started on that topic).

     Though a future post will indeed explore parental controlling, for now take a look at the below approaches. These are relatively simple evidenced-based ways to support balanced and responsible screen use for young children-

    • Be a role model: OK, this certainly seems obvious right? Children learn by observing their parents’ behaviors and there’s no way around this. To foster healthy screen habits, reflect on your own digital behavior and make necessary adjustments. How’s your sleep been? What’s your phone’s screen time log tell you?

    Model responsible screen use by setting limits on your own screen time, demonstrating undivided attention during family interactions, and resisting the urge to constantly check your devices. By being a positive role model, you create an environment where screens are used mindfully.

    • Establish clear boundaries: Creating a structured screen time routine helps children understand expectations around screen use. Set specific rules, such as no screens during meals or 2 hours before bedtime, to promote healthier habits.

    Additionally, designate certain areas in your home as screen-free zones, like bedrooms and the dinner table, to encourage alternative activities and foster family connections.

    • Collaborate on screen time decisions: Maybe not their request to use pink frosting rather than toothpaste (trust me). But including your child in decisions about screen time rules and limits can increase their sense of ownership and cooperation. Sit down together and have open discussions about the importance of balance. Explore the benefits and drawbacks of excessive screen use and work together to establish guidelines that suit your family’s values and needs. By involving them in the decision-making process, you promote their critical thinking skills and help them develop their own healthy relationship with screens.                                                 
    • Encourage diverse activities: Screens should not be the sole source of entertainment and learning for young children. Encourage a wide range of activities that promote physical, social, and intellectual development. Help them discover a fun, safe way of outdoor play. Which, of course, is what we use to do before dial-up and AOL CDs came onto the scene! 

    Support them in getting books to read, engaging in creative arts, participating in sports or hobbies.  By fostering a diverse set of interests, children become less dependent on screens for stimulation and develop a well-rounded skill set.

    • Engage in co-viewing and co-playing: Active involvement in your child’s screen time is crucial. Whenever possible, co-view or co-play with them to foster meaningful interaction and enhance their learning experience. Engage in conversations about what they are watching or playing, helping them differentiate between fiction and reality, and encouraging critical thinking. This shared experience also strengthens the parent-child bond, providing opportunities for connection and communication. Doing this also happens to help you monitor content as well, because…

    It is essential to restrict & monitor the content your young child engages with on screens.

    It’s just too easy to stumble upon the wrong site or for a silly joke in an innocent kids show to share the same name with something inappropriate (and wow has this happened a LOT).

     Filters in web browsers or what’s restricted in the Kid’s Profile on a given device are only so effective if you aren’t periodically checking what’s being filtered.  Encourage media choices that align with their age, maturity, and values, promoting educational content and positive digital experiences. Regularly discuss their online activities and address any concerns or questions they may have.

    Let’s harness this opportunity to guide our children towards a future where screens serve as valuable tools rather than overwhelming distractions in their lives.