398 | Screen Time Tips: How to Constructively Limit Screens (Janice Campbell)
I think we all know that too much screen-time can be a problem. It has been linked to developmental delays in babies and mental health and relationship issues in older children and teens. If your family has struggled with how to limit screens in a constructive way, here are a few tips on how to change habits and shift to healthier activities.
Janice Campbell, a lifelong reader and writer, loves to introduce students to great books and beautiful writing. She holds an English degree from Mary Baldwin College, and is the graduated homeschool mom of four sons. You’ll find more about reading, writing, planning, and education from a Charlotte Mason/Classical perspective at her websites, EverydayEducation.com, Excellence-in-Literature.com, and DoingWhatMatters.com.
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Janice Campbell Hello and welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Janice Campbell and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we don't pretend to have all the answers to all the homeschooling questions. It is our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ that you may seek his counsel as you train your children in the way they should go. Parents, here's a riddle for you: Homeschoolers love them, enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twin books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins series helps you teach your children about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the Golden Rule, and so much more. Get a discounted set
Janice Campbell Hi! I wanted to talk about screen time today. Everybody's favorite topic, probably. But I've been seeing a lot of articles recently, and it is becoming even more abundantly clear that too much screen time can be a problem. Studies are revealing its relationship to developmental delays in babies, and mental health and relationship issues in older children and teens. We're not even going to talk about what it does with adults, but screensanity.org, which is a nonprofit group that's focused on raising happy, healthy kids in a digital world, reports that 80% of their teens check their phones throughout the night and respond to every notification. 86% of them say they want to be social media influencers. Unfortunately, only 14% of them feel they can talk to an adult about the use of technology. The challenge is that we do live in an era when screen use is almost inevitable for both school and work. The problem is it's like a weed. It can start smothering good things and it will if you let it.
Janice Campbell So how can you reduce the amount of time your family spends with screens and media? Here are a few thoughts from Charlotte Mason on creating and Transforming habits. Ten Tips from the Department of Health and Human Services, and a short detox plan from Oliver DeMille, who wrote the Thomas Jefferson Education. These things might help your family reduce screen time to where it's manageable if that's something that you need. The suggestions from each of these resources center around timing, substitution, and consistency for best results. Charlotte Mason has quite a bit to say in her books about changing or building habits, and she believes that substitution is key for changing bad habits because, as she writes, one custom overcomes another. "The watchful mother sets up new tracks in other directions, and she sees to it that while she's leading new thoughts through the new way, the old, deeply worn way of thinking is quite disused." Her way of expressing it may be a bit old-fashioned, but her metaphor is apt. It is like building a new sidewalk so the delivery people will stop wearing a trail across the middle of your lawn. You might also have to install a bit of fencing or a bush to keep them out of the old path, but with consistency, a new habit can be built. So there are a few other things you can do to make habit change easier. And here are three. Wait for a natural break in routine to introduce the change, plan a wide variety of activities to substitute for time previously spent in front of a screen, and stay focused and consistent until the new habit is established. So let's talk about each of those in turn.
Janice Campbell The first one, choosing a natural transition time, a break in routine, that helps you create a different habit because you're already out of your normal routine. It might be the beginning of the school year or the end, a family wedding, or a house move, or vacation. Anything that breaks into your normal routine have some sort of family meeting, as informally as you like, and let everyone know that some kind of change is going to occur. And when you're planning to start implementing it, what do you expect life to look like once the change occurs. Now, this kind of a conversation is obviously going to be tailored to the ages of your kids, the type of communication you normally do within the family, and so forth. But depending on the age of your students, it may not even be necessary to explain that the changes are taking place in order to reduce screen time. You just announce that the family is going to be learning a new art or maybe increasing participation in a desirable activity. Because focusing on the positive makes the upcoming change something to look forward to rather than something to dread. And that whole principle of focusing on what good things will come once a change is made does make such a difference in the way kids anticipate things. Even though you're not doing anything different than you maybe had thought about. Framing it in a positive way is a tremendous help in letting them hear it clearly.
Janice Campbell So the second thing is to plan activities to replace what you would like to reduce. So in a Thomas Jefferson Education, Oliver DeMills suggests a useful method for detoxing the family when switching from institutional education to something more nurturing. His ideas fit well with Charlotte Mason's thoughts on changing a bad habit, and both are appropriate ways to reduce screen time. DeMille recommends a careful program of family activity, which emphasizes wholesome activity that does not reward conformity, but the attention of each individual. And some examples include; hiking, hands-on art creation, service projects, travel, and so forth. He cautions that a major change can be stressful, but by over-programming family time for a while with wholesome and constructive projects, the family gradually and gently eases off and moves into a lifestyle that's more conducive to learning and mental health–building positive mental health and that sort of thing. So this kind of thing aligns nicely with my personal favorite admonition "to do and be don't sit and stare. " For example, play sports don't watch sports. Make art, don't just watch other people do it. And of course, there's a time and a place for watching models and getting examples and so forth, but primarily learn to do the things yourself. Being a spectator of life is not really a healthy approach to life.
Janice Campbell An additional benefit of this planning activities piece is doing things together. Let kids see parents being a good example, which is one of the most important factors in this kind of change. And honestly, as a parent, it can be one of the hardest things if you're not in the habit of being active or doing certain things, or if you're a frequent phone checker, that kind of thing, it can be really hard to change your own activities. As an additional benefit, doing a variety of activities together helps parents be a good example, which is one of the most important factors in this kind of change. Parents will find change sometimes much more difficult than kids. So if you're a phone checker or if you're not used to doing a lot of activities. If you're more of a sedentary person, it can be hard to be a good example with your kids, but it's so important and it can help you too.
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Janice Campbell The third item is to be focused and consistent. Charlotte Mason writes that as new habits are being formed, the family sets up the course of new thoughts and hinders those of the past until the new thoughts have become automatic and run of their own accord. "All the time a sort of disintegration is going on in the place that held the disused thoughts. New habits will become ever more firmly established as old ones are shelved and forgotten." This kind of thing even works for attitude adjustments because as kids learn to get in the habit of being polite when they speak and things like that, old habits of just blurting out whatever will fade. So these three tips about choosing a neutral time—or a transition time—planning activities to take the place of an old habit, and being focused and consistent can be helpful for doing other things too. Creating manners, habits, or creating other good habits of helping around the home or whatever.
Janice Campbell So there's more tips, though, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, because what they are focused on is the fact that excessive screen time has been found to be bad for physical health, too. So it's the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the Health and Human Services that offers a number of free resources. They have a screen time tracking chart, and a whole variety of things, but they have ten helpful tips just to remind parents how to keep track of things and how to start helping your family make changes. Number one, talk to your family. Number two, set a good example. Number three, log screen time versus active time, comparison is very helpful. Number four, if you've been having an imbalance, try to make your screen time equal to or less than active time, I would say definitely less than active time if possible. Number five, set screen time limits. Number six, super important, create screen-free bedrooms. Number seven, make meal-time family time with no screens. Number eight, provide other options. Number nine, don't use screen time as reward or punishment. And number ten, understand ads the way they're placed. The idea of propaganda and so forth. But the thing with reducing screen time, it's not just about taking away and limiting, and all of those things, you're opening up a vista of possibility for so many other things that your family can be doing, your kids can be doing.
Janice Campbell If you grew up a few decades ago before screens, as I mostly did, not before television, but before computer things, you're outside most of the time. You're doing things, you're building things, you're making things, music and hobbies and drawing and imaginative play and so forth. As kids and parents start developing those things as a replacement for screen time, the reward is seeing each family member gradually develop real interests in their individual constructive activities or the collective outdoor fun activities. Plus, there's always the reading of good books that can help. Kids are struggling with reading now. And part of that is because of screen development, screen time. And part of that is because, well, there's a variety of factors. But the habit of limiting screens is completely worth it because it's better for their physical, mental, spiritual, and other health. So you're going to find a link to screensanity.org and other resources I've mentioned in the show notes. Thank you so much for joining me today and I wish you joy in the journey.
Janice Campbell Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of The Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Finally you can connect with me, Janice Campbell, at EverydayEducation.com where you'll find my Excellence in Literature curriculum, transcripts made easy and more, as well as at my blog DoingWhatMatters.com and my literature resource site Excellence-In-Literature.com. I wish you peace and joy in your homeschooling.