Hunter Wellness Pre-meeting Notes on Screen Time: How Much is Okay?

Hunter Wellness Dialogue
Screen Time: How Much is Okay?

January 14, 2015 

Dialogue was led by Colleen Hennessy, Chair of Counseling and Michelle Gullo, Health teacher

Approximately 35 parents attended

Format was a facilitated open dialogue

Parents shared various frustrations with the availability of computers and devices.  Those frustrations included:

  • -    Seeing their children distracted by group chats or texts during the time that they should be doing homework
  • -    Feeling that their children’s social lives revolve around technology – it’s their fun, their way to connect with friends, their evening entertainment
  • -    Defensiveness from their children – for example, their claims that they are not distracted during homework with texting.
  • -    Feeling that their children respond to concerns about overusing electronics by saying that “parents are old-fashioned” or “don’t understand”
  • -    Feeling that they don’t have adequate resources – for example, studies on the impact of too much screen time, or support from other parents

Several parents also shared that they don’t feel fully able to control children’s use of computers, devices, etc. because they didn’t grow up with this, because they don’t know the “right” way to put controls on screen time, and because they don’t like conflict.  

On the other hand, parents recognized the value of digital technology for their children.  For example:

  • -    At times technology can facilitate collaboration
  • -    Technology provides access to books and academic materials
  • -    Technology helps the students write in groups
  • -    Technology allows students to get quick answers from teachers and peers

One parent emphasized that we should put our focus not on demonizing digital technology or trying to keep our students from using, we should be leveraging it in a positive way to achieve academic and personal goals.  

Ms. Hennessy shared that one indicator of too much interruption during homework is the length of time it takes students to complete their evening work.  If homework is taking over five hours, then there is a high likelihood that they are distracted by texting, group chats, too many views of Facebook, etc.  Many parents shared that the quality of homework produced does not correlate to the amount of time their child is putting in to it (too much time, not enough quality)

They are learning a different way to concentrate.  When collaborating it works well, but when they need to focus and think it is time to put the phone away.

Parents shared some of the various rules they have in the house:

  • -    Having times when the wifi is turned off
  • -    Phones not allowed to be on during homework
  • -    No electronics in bedrooms
  • -    No smartphone
  • -    Checking homework with their child
  • -    Checking their child’s search engine history
  • -    Insisting that their child work in 30-45 minute increments where there is no digital interruptions (e.g. fun texting, checking sports sights, checking FB).  

One parent said that it would be great if some Hunter parents would get together and agree on a collective set of rules that were the same for all students!

Parents agreed that it is hard to enforce the rules, the rules often slip.  Parents also said that the school’s use of technology often makes it harder at home to limit screen time.  It’s very easy for students to just say “oh, I have to be on-line for school” 

Parents suggested that Hunter could provide more help in creating healthy use of digital technology.  For example, the school could:

  • -    share the message about the danger of distractions on technology so students don’t think parents are old-fashioned
  • -    hosting student discussions on successful strategies to use/limit screen time, how to deal with FOMO, and advise each other
  • -    share research on impact of distractions, screen time, etc.
  • -    change the school policy about what time homework is posted on the website – there is too much checking at home to see if an assignment is posted.  
  • -    Overall, more reinforcement on healthy use of devices, computers, etc.