Principals Perspective (March) - Rabbi Matthew Bellas
Rabbi Matthew Bellas and Jamie Kaminsky, 2nd & 3rd Grade Guidance Counselor

So Much Screen Time!

Some Guidance for Lower School Families

Setting expectations and limits for our school-aged children around “screen time” is not a new consideration for families. The variety of and access to devices and applications of all shapes, sizes, and activity options that our children have is greater than ever and continues to grow, not to mention their access starting at younger ages than ever. Parents/guardians recognize the importance of supporting children to find a balance between sedentary entertainment on screens and active engagement with others off-screen indoors and outdoors. Over the course of the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, setting these types of limits has become more difficult than ever. Children now spend significant portions of their school time learning on screens. With the importance of observing crucial health and safety practices, time with family and friends has been forced to become virtual. When seeking independent entertainment options, it has been hard, especially during the winter months, to find activities that don’t involve screens. Furthermore, as our young children are attending classes on the computer, they find it challenging to be able to block out the tempting call of Google hangouts, funny videos, and gaming as a result of where they are naturally in their maturity development. And every time we make an attempt to regulate our children’s choices of game play or Youtube clips, they often seem to find a sophisticated way of “out-teaching” or circumventing our protections. 

As we navigate these incredibly trying academic, social-emotional, spiritual, and physical times, many children are feeling bereft and really struggling. They are quite understandably seeking entertainment, connections, stimulation, and social interactions with peers. Our children have lost so much during this pandemic that many parents/guardians feel conflicted about being more permissive around technology not only for entertainment purposes but also as a means to occupy while adults attempt to work remotely and keep the household running. This reality begs the question: how can we strike a happy balance between honoring these valid needs during these unprecedented circumstances while still protecting and being mindful of our young children’s developing brains? 

There are no easy solutions, but there are approaches to take and resources to consult. An excellent place to start is with open communication between parents/guardians and children at home. As opposed to being reactive when we feel like screen time should end, have a proactive conversation that includes:

  • A comfortable and quiet place where everyone can be in the moment

  • Why setting screen time limits is important: the connection between screen time and mood, sleeping habits, health, etc. 

  • Openness about how and why the pandemic has impacted screen time in significant ways

  • Open sharing about what expectations should be going forward and how this will be managed; several possible topics include:

    • How much screen time beyond school-based needs will be permitted?

    • What apps/platforms are you comfortable with as a family?

    • At what point should screens be shut down before bed time?

    • How should questions/challenges around screen-time issues be handled in the future?

    • What role does screen-time play as a consequence/positive reinforcement in the household?

In addition to these points of guidance, we have also gathered a few articles that you might find helpful as you consider how you will address the topic of screen time in your household going forward:  

As always, administration, guidance counselors, and teachers are here to partner with and support you in any way. Do not hesitate to reach out should you have questions or concerns on this or any other topic.