Balance is the key to screen use

As we edge closer to the midway point of the first term, the daily routines for our boys are truly embedded, although it hasn’t been without its challenges. In only their third week at school, our Preps are testament to the fact that routines and clear expectations have been established.

As a parent of three children, I am overtly aware that children will respond differently in the comfort of their own home, compared to that of the school environment amongst their peers and it may take a little longer to settle back into the ‘school’ routine. Aside from the pandemic, one of the most discussed topics I have had among parents in recent weeks has been ‘screen time’.

For some children, especially within the past couple of years through COVID restrictions and ongoing isolation at times, screens to some degree have been a lifeline for children. They’ve enabled kids to learn, work, create, communicate and stay socially connected.

The flip side is that overuse and misuse of screens can take their toll on kids’ mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing, creating issues with everything from face-to-face socialising and focus to falling asleep.

The key to screen use is balance. However, expecting your primary-aged son to self-manage his device use might be a bit of a stretch. Here are some tips to help you assist your son:

Establish screen-based rules

I’m pretty sure that without boundaries, my son would stay on screens until his eyes were hanging out of his head. And I’m not sure even that would deter him. For your own sanity develop some rules about what screens can be used for, when they can be used, where they can be used and for how long they can be accessed.

  • What – always be aware of what your son is accessing and put safeguards in place.
  • When – limitations around use are essential and can be set on any device
  • Where – Yes to shared spaces such as the living room; No to screens in the bedroom.
  • How long – e.g. weekends only or 1 hour on school days, 2 hours on weekend days or school holidays and keep sessions short by encouraginging active breaks.

Get the timing right

Once your son is on a screen, it’s going to be hard to get him off it, so encourage him to have breakfast, get dressed, be active or do his chores before he can plug into his device.

Primary-school aged children need around 9 to 11 hours sleep a night. Avoid device use in the hour before bed (screens can affect how quickly your son falls asleep) and keep screens out of the bedroom.

Be a screen-time role model

How we, as parents use screens, will have a major impact on your children’s screen use. Model good device use by muting notifications and putting limits on your own screen time – and sticking to them. Establish moments each day when the whole family is screen-free, such as mealtimes – a rule in my house - that allow you to have conversations without interruption. Figure out some screen alternatives you can do together, such as playing board games or going outdoors and being active.

Setting boundaries around screen time can be hard, especially at the moment with many parents juggling so much already, however, creating positive relationships with screens now will likely help you and your son well into the future.

I wish to thank all our families for your ongoing support and understanding during the disruptive start to school this year.

It is yet another reminder of the wonderful spirit of the Ipswich Grammar School community. I also would like to sincerely thank our teachers and support staff who have and continue to show tremendous professionalism and dedication in what has been and continues to be a challenging time.

Ben Gates

Head of Junior School