(Rockville, MD) Screen time often spikes
for children during the summer, but as the season winds down and the new school
year begins, it marks a fresh opportunity for families to instill new habits
around technology use. The American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers these tips for families as
they embark on the 2019–2020 school year:
- Make—and Stick to—a
Plan: A Family
Technology Plan can keep all family members on the same page when it comes to
tech rules and expectations. Numerous trusted groups, including the American Academy
and Common Sense Media, offer templates
to make this easy. Even if families have an existing plan, this is a good time
to revisit it and consider whether the rules need to evolve. What is, and isn’t,
working? Are kids old enough for additional/different privileges? These plans
are not static. They need to change to be effective.
- Focus on Quality: Although quantity (i.e., daily/weekly
time limits) still has a place and utility for many families, not all screen
time is created equal. As most experts now stress, 30 minutes spent creating
something (art, programming, etc.) is not necessarily the same as 30 minutes
passively viewing YouTube videos. Emphasize the former—and consider allowing
more leeway if the time is well spent.
- Make Dinner Time
Sacred: This is a classic
but still-relevant recommendation: Dinner time should be offline time.
Conversation should be king at the dinner table. In addition to building kids’
communication (speech, language, and social) skills and providing an unmatched,
consistent opportunity for family bonding and connection, regular family
dinners offer a host of other benefits. Technology is almost always a
distraction—so no answering texts, sending emails, or surfing the web.
- Keep Bedtime Use
Off Limits: Another classic
but often ignored recommendation is bedtime restrictions. Recent research from Common Sense
Media found 68% of teens (and 74% of parents) now take their mobile devices to
bed with them. Not only can this detract from beneficial bedtime activities
such as daily reading, but it can interfere with adequate sleep—which is necessary
for physical and mental health as well as academic success.
- Limit Tech Use During
Homework Time: Homework
restrictions undoubtedly become more difficult as kids get older and
assignments require online research. To that end, kids should use tech as
sparingly as possible—and only to assist them with their homework. This is not
the time to be multitasking with social media or texting.
- Get Involved: Make tech use a group activity. Watch
kids play Fortnite, or view videos from their favorite YouTuber with them. Ask
questions. Show (better yet, have)
interest. This not only keeps the lines of communication open and provides a
chance to talk/bond, but it may serve as a comfort to parents who have concerns
about their child’s online time—i.e., it may not be as bad as they think.
Conversely, this co-viewing can serve as an early indicator of problematic
content or viewing habits.
- Elevate the Conversation: Think
beyond limits, rules and restrictions. Again, these have their place, but
encourage kids to think critically, for themselves, about how they use
technology (risks/rewards). Help them appreciate and value offline time—both
activities (e.g., sports, art) and relationships (spending time with family and
friends, prioritizing people over devices). Parents can’t monitor everything,
especially as children get older. Talk about expectations for being a good digital
citizen. Establish family morals around tech use. This way, kids will carry
these along when they are at friends’ houses, on the school bus, and out in the
world. Offer the tools to make good decisions, and model healthy tech habits
more information and tips, visit the Healthy
Communication & Popular Technology Initiative (www.communicationandtech.org and https://medium.com/asha-communication-and-tech) of the American
About the American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association
for 204,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language
pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and
speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists
specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as
providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language
pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems,
including swallowing disorders.