Summer Well Being: Deflate the Screen

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

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By Sage Ball

Dear Parents

How quickly a year can go.

The last academic year has meant that your child has spent a lot of time on their devices. Prior to Covid we would have referred to this as screen time. Now we just talk about ‘time spent on devices’. How rapidly our ‘normal’ changes.

The summer offers a wonderful time to cut back on the amount of time that we all spend on a device. BHS is very keen to support you, to support your child, to spend less time on a device over the summer holiday.

As part of our commitment to supporting the well-being of our community, over the long holiday, I would like to offer the following tips to help reduce screen time.

The advice below can be more challenging to implement as your child becomes older. Devices can also provide important social contact for your child during these Covid times.

1. Setting the example. Deflate the Screen.

If we want kids to spend less time on their devices, then we must also spend less time on our devices. This is especially the case with using devices after 6.00 pm. This doesn’t mean that we stop working! It means that when we are not engaged in work activities we, as adults, must lead the way. This is important for teenagers. They look to us as role models; even though it may not always appear that way. It is important to know that their brains respond to the kind of immediate reward that is offered by so much of the online world.

2. Planning to spend time outside each day.

In whatever manner this can be achieved. In the garden, in the woods, on the balcony. Just being outdoors changes how we look at the world. Being outdoors doesn’t just mean going for a hike. It could be reading time, social time, game time, gardening time, etc!

3. Planning to have reading time each day- the time can be flexible.

Read to your child or read with your child or just promote reading each day- family read time. Reading for pleasure is one of the wonders of the modern age! Reading books, comics, whatever, promotes thinking skills, creativity, and children often encounter more new words when reading for 30 minutes than they do talking with an adult for 30 minutes.

There are 3 Assabil public libraries in Beirut. I have used Bachoura. All you need to join is your ID! Over the summer you can borrow 7 books for one month for each membership card.

The Upper School library is open to lend books in the summer. Contact Ms Carmen to make an appointment.

4. Earning daily screen time.

This is not going to be popular. But it is an opportunity for your child to earn screen time. Wash up after breakfast and earn 20 minutes of screen time! After all, the idea is to reduce and not remove completely. Earning screen time puts the control of how much time they can spend on their devices back on the child. Taking part in sport could also earn screen time.

5.      Keeping screens out of the bedroom.

An absolute rule. All screens should be in public spaces. Screen creep should be avoided at all times! This can be part of a device contract that you may want to write and sign as a family. Likewise, it is recommended that all devices are charged in a central location.

6.      Scheduling screen time.

Being in front of a screen does switch your child’s brain to passive mode. That’s why it’s important to schedule screen time carefully.

When it comes to allowing screen time, the afternoon is best. This is when the sun is at its hottest and children have already exhausted themselves. Remember to have all electronics stashed away at least two hours before bedtime.

7.      Relax.

It’s important to have some scheduled downtime, too. Boredom helps stimulate creativity. Talk with your children and come up with a list of non-screen related activities they like to do. Then, when they are bored you can refer them to their list. For younger kids this is when all the toys start to come out, the art kit gets found, a sudden interest in baking beings.

There are some wonderful ideas for older children here: (I personally like number 99: Wait for water to boil)

8. There is always one.

Your child will always be able to quote one other child in their peer group whose parents will allow them to have as much screen time as they want. They will be clear about how unfair this is. Meanwhile the child they are referring to is also telling their parents about one other child in their peer group whose parents will allow them to have as much screen time as they want…

What other families choose to allow is up to that family. The question is ‘what is it that we want for our family?’ Children don’t always like the decisions that we will make.

That said there is no reason why groups of parents, whose children are friends, cannot work with each other to agree ‘screen rules’ between them. That way, for example, no one in a friendship group might be on a screen before 3.00 pm.

Which really takes us back to point 1. We need to deflate the devices and follow the same rules that we set for the children.