Groundbreaking Study Examines Effects of Screen Time on Kids

Children ages 9 and 10 who spent at least seven hours on screens per day had thinning of the part of the brain that controls sensory processing, and those who had more than two hours of daily screen time had lower language and thinking test scores, according to an ongoing study from the National Institutes of Health. The study will follow over 11,000 children for 10 years to see how prolonged screen time affects the brain.

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Quality of Screen Time May Matter More than Quantity

Efforts to limit the amount of students’ screen time may be less effective than focusing on how they are using their screens, according to several education-technology experts.  In an opinion piece, Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology Education, says screen time is best used to collaborate and problem-solve.

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Parents Need Screen Time Limits Too

Parents should reconsider their relationship with their phones; save the most stressful aspects of smartphone use for when other family members aren’t present; and focus on mealtimes, bedtimes and other downtime by unplugging with the family, according to a one-page resource in JAMA Pediatrics. The resource also urged parents to avoid undesirable phone use behaviors that may be imitated by their children, as well as to resist documenting and posting everything.

Create a Family Media Plan

Media should work for you & work within your family values & parenting style. When media is used thoughtfully & appropriately, media can enhance daily life. But when used inappropriately or without thought, media can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play, exercise, unplugged downtime & sleep.

By creating a Personalized Family Media Use Plan, you can be aware of when you are using media to achieve your purpose. This requires parents & users to think about what they want those purposes to be. The tool below will help you to think about media & create goals & rules that are in line with your family’s values.

Use this tool from the American Academy of Pediatrics to create a media plan for your family.

Homework Hygiene

Great tips to improve homework practices from Screenagers:

Homework Hygiene is all about helping kids develop effective practices around homework such as writing to-do lists, developing the habit of prioritizing the list and checking things off.

It is a top priority to engage our kids in conversations in which they become aware of the challenges they face in having good homework habits.

Screenagers 3-part conversation tactic for helping kids gain insight and ideas for optimal homework hygiene:

    1. Empathize – Start by saying you have empathy for all kids about homework—you understand that after a full school day how difficult it is to do repetitive or hard work. Validate that having to do homework can feel tortuous at times, and now with distractions at our fingertips, there is a new, unprecedented level of challenge.
    2. Get curious – Have one good conversation about homework that is calm and curious, not personal and judgemental.
    3. Explore effective strategies – After the non-personal conversations, get your kid to talk about their current homework strategies and habits. Ask questions like, “Do you start by writing a list of what needs to get done?” Now is a good time to throw out ideas.

Examples of good Homework Hygiene:

  1. Do homework after physical activity because the body is physiologically primed to learn more efficiently in this state.
  2. Start with the task that they least want to do and set the alarm for 10 minutes. That helps get over the hurdle of doing it. Then, after the 10 minutes, coming back to it will be much easier.
  3. Have a rule that all tech is off by a certain time so homework cannot be done late at night.
  4. Put phones out of sight and decide when it is reasonable for a tech or phone break. My 10th grader takes a short phone break about every 30 minutes.
  5. Put in place other breaks, not just checking phone, such as playing with a pet, or doing part of a crossword puzzle with them.
  6. Get a system that monitors what the student does on the computer, i.e. how often they check other sites. If they know this is on the computer, it can help keep them stay on task until they get a break. Check out our website for computer monitoring systems. Another way to do this is to tell your child that the two of you will check their browsing history from time to time. It is vital to be upfront about this because kids can easily erase their history.

How to Create a Digital Detox for Your Child


For many parents, turning on the TV the second they walk in the door or compulsively checking social media becomes a habit. Kids often develop unhealthy screen time habits too, by turning on video games before school or by getting on the computer the second they walk through the door.

Making a conscious choice to unplug for an extended period of time can break some of those bad habits. When kids get out of their environment and step away from their usual routine, they have an opportunity to develop new habits.

Here are a few strategies for creating a digital detox:

  • A week-long break from electronics – A camping trip, a vacation in the mountains, or a week in a remote cabin could get everyone away from the electronics. Stepping away from technology could renew everyone’s appreciation for simple activities, like board games or playing catch.
  • An electronics-free weekend – If you can’t afford a vacation—or you have a job that makes unplugging for a week seem like an impossibility—consider a digital detox on a smaller scale. Consider making it happen to unplug a few weekends each year.
  • A monthly digital-free day – Perhaps the first Saturday of every month means no screens or the last Sunday of the month is a quiet family day. Commit to spending quality time together without using electronics for one day every month.

Stepping away from electronics for a few days can be a great experiment to see if it changes your child’s behavior.  A short break could boost her mood (after she gets over the initial horror of not having her electronics) and increase her motivation to get her work done.

Of course, it’s important to be a good role model when it comes to electronics. If you tell your child to turn off the electronics while you’re sitting behind the computer, your words won’t be effective. So be willing to go through a digital detox with your child. It could be good for the whole family to step away from electronics for a short time.

Maitland Middle School Hosts ‘Screenagers’ Screening

Screenagers 2In partnership with Maitland Middle School PTA, the Winter Park Health Foundation, and the Enzian Theatre, on August 20, Maitland Middle School provided a private showing of the documentary ‘Screenagers‘ to parents and students. The film explored the impact of electronic devices and ‘screen time’ on children. Following the film, Kelly Walker, Chill Counselor, and Aimee Jennings, CHILL Coordinator, led a discussion on how each family can find balance with their electronic devices.

Screenagers 1The screening was the idea of Stacy Cox, Maitland Middle School PTA Past President, who read a Healthy Kids Today newsletter containing information about the documentary.   Healthy Kids Today has been highlighting social media usage and digital citizenship as a result of conversations held with Winter Park Consortium School principals about the challenges students, parents, and teachers are facing as a result of increased digital technology usage.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can help your student be a responsible digital citizen?  Check out these websites:

Center on Media and Child Health
The Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) is an academic research center whose mission is to educate and empower children and those who care for them to create and consume media in ways that optimize children’s health and development.

Common Sense Media
Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.

Screenagers Movie
The latest research, trends, and thought-provoking commentary on screen time and parenting issues.

Smart Talk
The Smart Talk gets parents and kids together for a conversation about being responsible with new technology.

Are you interested in bringing a ‘Screenagers’ screening to your school?  Fill out the form below and be sure to mention ‘Screenagers’ screening in the message area.

Contact Healthy Kids Today

Kids who Text while Watching TV may Underperform in School

Adapted from Science Daily

The more time teenagers spend splitting their attention between various devices such as their phones, video games or TV, the lower their test scores in math and English tend to be. More time spent multitasking between different types of media is also associated with greater impulsivity and a poorer working memory in adolescents, says Amy S. Finn of the University of Toronto. Finn was one of the leaders of a study on the topic published in Springer’s journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

According to Finn, the term “media multitasking” describes the act of using multiple media simultaneously, such as having the television on in the background while texting on a smartphone. While it has been on the rise over the past two decades, especially among adolescents, its influence on cognition, performance at school, and personality has not been assessed before.

Click here to read more about the study including the affects “media multitasking” may have on your child’s academic performance.

Child With a Short Attention Span? Blame Your Digital Device.

Adapted from Reuters

Parents who turn to smartphones and tablets to break up the tedium of caring for an infant around the clock may be teaching their babies to have a short attention span, a small study suggests.

That’s because when parents stop focusing on playtime with their baby to concentrate on other things like tiny screens, their infants may mimic this behavior by also focusing on toys and other objects for shorter periods of time.

In other words, babies learn to focus better when their parents aren’t distracted, said lead study author Chen Yu, a brain science researcher at Indiana University at Bloomington.

How your phone might give your kid a short attention span | Reuters

“If parents join a child’s attention on a toy object, children are more likely to show longer attention on the target object compared with cases that parents don’t show any attention or interest,” Yu said by email.

This works best when parents follow their baby’s lead, Yu added.

“If parents try to lead by getting the child’s attention on the object of the parent’s interest, this effort may not be successful,” Yu said. “But if parents just follow the child’s attention/interest it is easier to be in joint attention with their child.”

Click here to continue reading about how your smartphone and tablet usage may affect your child’s attention span.

Eager to learn more about digital citizenship?  Check out Common Sense Media.

Celebrate Screen Free Week

screen free weekDuring Screen Free Week, May 2-8, children, families, and communities around the world will rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen. Unplug from digital entertainment and spend your free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends.
*except for work and school assignments

Visit Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood for more information

Featured Resources

Changing children’s screen habits can be a challenge for both kids and parents. That’s why we created “7 Parent-Tested Tips to Unplug and Play,” strategies for getting young kids to spend less time with screens from real parents who have done it and noticed a world of difference.
Want the children in your life to spend more time playing and less time with screens? CCFC’s great new handout is for you. Clear, concise, and evidence-based, our Healthy Kids in a Digital World brochure is packed with tips, facts, and screen-free activities—and it’s free!