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Screen Time

During the holidays, we can pretty much count on the fact that our kids will want to spend more time in front of the screen. Whether it’s TV or an iPad, Xbox or a computer, kids are drawn to the screen for entertainment, information and to just “veg out.”

But trying to understand how much screen time is okay for our children is like trying to understand what foods are beneficial or harmful. Coffee, olive oil, avocados, wine, corn, sugar, red meat, soy – will it kill you or cure you? It seems to change all the time.

There are innumerable articles blaming the overuse of screen time for everything from anxiety to childhood obesity. But there are just as many that indicate things aren’t really that bad, and screen time actually has benefits for learning and building skills.  As usual, the opinions (and evidence) get murkier when it comes to Complex Learners. Trying to discern the right amount of time or the approach to take is difficult and right now there aren’t definitive answers.

My advice – don’t look to the scientists right now – put on your parent hat and go with what you know about your child. What happens after a movie marathon? Do video games get your child revved up or relaxed? Are there behavioral differences after an hour on the iPad? You are the primary observer and have the knowledge. Set boundaries accordingly and explain to your child why they make sense.

And here are a few things folks seem to be in agreement about that might help:

  • No screen time in bed, and cut off screen time about half an hour before bedtime, depending on your child’s needs.
  • Kids will learn more about social skills face-to-face than on videos or movies so make sure you make time for playdates, outings and family time.
  • Exercise is a must for Complex Learners so don’t add screen time at the sacrifice of movement.
  • Get involved! Watch a movie together. Ask about their video game or play it if you dare! Use this time as a way to be together when you can, but also as a way to see what your child is doing and interested in.

What do you think about screen time during the holidays?

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Anna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School, is a devoted, passionate educator with more than 17 years of classroom and leadership experience. She holds a BA and MAT from Brown University, and speaks locally and nationally on topics related to Complex Learners.

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