It’s been a year and a half since the pandemic began, and we’ve all consumed more tech than we’d like or care to admit. That’s okay—it’s part of pandemic survival, but this fall with in-person school in full gear, it’s the perfect time for a reset. Here are some research-backed tips to create healthy tech boundaries for your family.
1. Keep bedrooms screen-free, both for you and your child(ren). Bedrooms should be sanctuaries of rest, and screens disrupt that—plus it makes your children’s tech use harder to monitor after bedtime. If space provides, have your child(ren) complete any computer-based homework in a more centralized room, like the kitchen table, living room, outdoor patio, or another at-home desk.
2. Use screen-free alarms. I recently swapped my phone out for an old-fashioned alarm clock, and it’s made a huge difference in my rest quality and stress (as I’m not checking emails or the news from bed!). Kids deserve to wake up screen-free as well. As alarms go, there are a variety of hi-tech yet screen-free options, such as a programmable wake light like Hatch, a sunrise alarm clock, or even Alexa for a wake-up playlist.
3. Have a centralized charging dock for all devices. This helps keep tech out of bedrooms, ensuring your child(ren) won’t be up on YouTube in the middle of the night.
4. Set a device curfew. In the 60-90 minutes before bedtime, our bodies should be producing melatonin rather than absorbing blue light from devices. By shutting off computers, phones, (and even digital homework!) as part of the pre-bedtime routine, your family will rest better and sleep earlier. This means everyone is more alert and efficient the next day. If this isn’t possible, wear blue-blocking glasses and/or switch the device to nighttime mode in the evenings.
5. Focus on boosting your child(ren)’s movement and outdoor time, rather than counting screen-time minutes. In her book, Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom argues that children of all ages should aim for 3 hours of daily free outdoor play. If this seems like a lofty goal, Crane has switched many of its activities outdoors, and Handscom’s 3-hour goal includes school-based outdoor time, like recess, PE, and gym. Not only does outdoor/movement time boost kids’ mental and physical health, it’s also an easy way to cut back on screen time. If kids are outdoors and moving, they aren’t likely on screens.
6. Try co-viewing. Co-viewing, or watching media with your child, can protect against some of the negative effects of screens. Co-viewing changes the media experience from a solo, passive activity to an interactive group one, where real-time conversation and dialogue occur. So, cozy up for that movie together and spark some good chats with your children.
To a healthy year ahead!
Jennifer Bochsler, LMFT
Upper School Learning Specialist