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When and how much to plan



To move forward, you have to focus. Mashable’s Social Good Series is dedicated to exploring ways to better wellbeing and highlighting issues critical to making the world a better place.


Welcome to this installment of our limited edition Advisory Column! Senior Features writer Rebecca Ruiz and Special Projects Director Alex Hazlett will answer questions about screen time and digital family life during the pandemic. You can read our rest of our advice Here. Send a question to smallhumans@mashable.com.

Are skills like writing, patience, attention, reading comprehension, memory retention, and self-regulatory skills really suffering from screen time? And what is too much if more RL will be part of the school next year? ̵

1; Elina, mother of a 4th grade

The short answer to the first part of your question is that we don’t really know yet. Screen time is difficult, partly because research in the area is almost often retrospective. In other words, researchers interview parents or children about screen usage habits, as well as academic outcomes and emotional wellbeing. Such studies can show a link between screen use and mental health, such as: B. between increased screen time and depression, but they are often not designed to accurately determine whether screen time itself caused a particular outcome. A number of other factors could play a role. For example, young people who are prone to depression may spend more time online than their peers who do not have mental health problems.

The other reason your question is difficult to answer is because researchers have not consistently collected the data needed to determine cause and effect. A 2019 JAMA Pediatrics For example, a link has been found between excessive screen time and later developmental milestones in toddler and preschool children. However, since the study started before the widespread use of smartphones, researchers were unable to figure out the effects of this technology on children. It’s worth noting that in this case, excessive screen time can mean hours of watching TV. At the same time, a child using a Chromebook or iPad that allows for tracking or spelling on the screen can acquire gross motoring and memory skills that they would not otherwise see on YouTube while unboxing a video. The quality of the content is very important.

Another way to ponder this question is to think about how the skills you are describing can be incorporated into screen time. Try setting a timer for on-screen use, then be prepared to slowly and compassionately guide your child through the disappointment of turning it off. This is not an easy task, but it is important if you are to teach patience and emotional regulation. Even if you only do this once or twice a week, watch a TV show with them and ask them to discuss what happened. If they’re on Minecraft, ask to build with them and talk about how to deal with setbacks. You may notice a theme here: Parental involvement is key to ensuring your child is learning important skills when spending time with screens. You don’t have to be a hero or a perfect parent, especially at a time when parents are utterly exhausted. You and your child deserve grace, but you also need to keep showing up whenever you can.

In terms of how much is too much, the American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines for children ages 0-5 and ages 5-18. However, also trust that your child will let you know and look for signs that they are overwhelmed or burned out. This can include crankiness, restlessness, and withdrawal. It can be helpful to remember that screen time itself is not the enemy, but how it affects every child’s life and their family can make a huge difference. –Rebecca


Is there a time of day that is best when you give in to screen time? We still allow half an hour Sesame Street just before bed but i’m not sure if that’s for the best. -Amy Shoenthal

There are two main considerations that I would think about when deciding where to allow a block of screen time: First, what works for your schedule? Second, are there any downsides to this particular time period that you want to avoid?

Sleep experts recommend staying away from screens such as televisions, laptops, phones, and tablets for at least 30 minutes before bed, as the blue light emitted by these devices can delay the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it difficult for you or your child to fall asleep. Physiological effects aside, an exhilarating TV show can get your child started right at the time you want them to calm down. Finally, another transition is introduced when they have to turn off the show and go to bed, which in my experience can lead to a lot of fights as you end an activity your child wants to do and begin one they probably won’t. I don’t wanna do it And when it comes to bedtime, discretion is the greatest part of bravery.

So if you noticed you watched an episode of Sesame Street doesn’t help your child relax and go to bed then it is likely clear that this time isn’t a good window for watching TV. For a while, watching TV was a great way to get our older child to sleep. Then it became a way of creating a joint state before bed, but once it came off, all the energy she hadn’t had before would come back to the noisy avoidance of bedtime. So we changed it.

But your child probably loves Sesame StreetSo you want to know when to “see” it. There are less clear answers here, as there is no magical “best” hour of the day for screen time. I would instead rely on what is best on the schedule for the rest of the family to avoid creating a transition conflict when they have to quit. Some of our favorite times are in the afternoon (after napping if your child is taking one) when not everyone feels like pretending to be more. Or before dinner, when you want to focus on preparing it with only minor interruptions. Another good option might be in the morning when they run out of steam and play with their toys. It may take some experimentation to find out what works for your family, and it will change over time. You won’t avoid fights entirely, but hopefully you won’t be in a battle and then try to go to bed.

Now to a question you didn’t ask me, but I’ll go to the address anyway. You phrased your advice by asking about the best time to give in to screen time and I’m going to challenge you to relax a bit there. You talk about allowing your child to watch very high quality age-appropriate content for a limited time. This is the gold standard in on-screen time management for parents!

Screen time is a lot scared, but don’t underestimate the possibility that good kids’ shows will generate concepts and ideas that you can build on when they’re not watching. My daughter knows what a birch is because she cut down so many Minecraft. Sesame Street In particular, there is a strong focus on kindness and dealing with your emotions, which are valuable skills to practice on. Connecting the concepts Elmo is studying with something your child is experiencing can reinforce the lesson and help your child learn. You may already be doing this with books or other media. This also applies to the shows your children watch. -Alex




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