Mental Health: Advice For Families On Healthy Tech Screen Time

screentime

The link between mental health issues and over use of the internet on mobile phones and laptops, etc., for example, spending hours on end on social media sites every day, is very strong, particularly with school children and adolescents. To that end, the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) is running a much needed campaign, which gives easy tips for families, as they prepare for the 2019–2020 school year.

Although summer time means that screen time usually spikes for children and adolescents, as the holiday season draws to a close, it offers an excellent chance for families to implement new ways to manage their use of technology. The following 5 tips just offered by the ASHA, are well worth following.

Tip 1

Make a “Family Technology Plan,” and stick to it. It is a good step in the right direction, as it ensures that when it comes to expectations and tech regulations, every member of the family are on the same page. “Numerous trusted groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Common Sense Media, offer templates to make this easy”.

Tip 2

Concentrate on Quality: While it has to be said that time limits, e.g., weekly and daily targets, are still valuable: “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”.

Tip 3

Let Dinner Time Be Sacred: All meal times should be offline, and when it comes to family, dinner time is extremely important. Conversation and interaction over a good evening meal, is very beneficial to mental health. Moreover, building children’s’ communication (social, language and speech skills), and establishing a consistent possibility for family bonding is essential. Generally speaking, technology is always a distraction, so surfing the web, looking at /sending emails, or answering text messages, should be avoided.

Tip 4

Keep Tech At Bedtime Off Limits: “Recent research from Common Sense Media found 68% of teens (and 74% of parents) now take their mobile devices to bed with them” [1]. This stops conventional bedtime activities, such as beneficial nightly reading. Moreover, screen use has been shown to disrupt sleep, due to interrupting the hormone melatonin. Good sleep is vital for mental and physical health, and if this lack of sleep scenario builds up, then the fall out can be very serious indeed.

Tip 5

Limit Screen Use During Homework Time: Although restrictions in this category are not as easy to implement as children get older, and homework necessitates online research, positive action still needs to be taken. – Children and adolescents need to be guided to use technology as sparingly as they can. Moreover, homework time should not include texting or multitasking with social media.