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10 Tips for Managing Screen Time During The School Year

It takes patience and consistency to find what works best.

We live in a digital world, so screens are a huge part of our everyday lives. And with school back in session, kids use screens more frequently during the day. Managing screen time during the school year is a big deal for all of us. And since we all spend a lot of time with technology, it’s up to us to help our children have a healthy relationship with their screens. 

Managing screen time during the school year is essential for our kids’ development. 

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, too much screen time can have side effects, including:1

  • Sleeping problems.
  • Poor self-image.
  • Less time spent outdoors.
  • Lower grades.
  • Attention disorders.

Define how much screen time is enough.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have a set recommendation for kids 6 and older. They do recommend that parents set consistent limits and ensure that screens don’t replace sleep and physical activity.2

Explain to your kids that too much time sitting watching screens is not healthy.3,4 Establish consequences if they break the rules you set for them.

Practice what you preach. 

The hardest part of managing your child’s screen time may be managing your own. Kids learn by watching. They will establish their relationship with technology based on your relationship with technology. If you always have the TV on or scroll through your phone whenever you have free time, they will probably do the same. 

If you want your child to learn responsible technology use, model it for them.

Adjust the limits based on the day.

Different days may call for different screen limits. For some families, school days may mean no screens. For others, screen usage may be significantly reduced during school nights. Weekends may get extended screen time. You know your family and should do what’s best for your household. The most essential aspect of screen time is balance. Kids need physical activity and creativity. Make sure they are spending time being active, whether structured or unstructured.

Make bedrooms screen-free.

Keep TVs, video games, and computers in common areas. This keeps kids from disappearing with a screen for hours. It also helps you know what they are using screens for and how much time they spend on them. Screen-free bedrooms are a little more challenging with phones and tablets. Charging devices (even your own) overnight in a common area can be helpful.

Studies show that using screens before bedtime makes it harder for kids to fall asleep. It also reduces sleep quality. And when kids are tired, it’s harder for them to learn.5 

Give your kids other options to keep them active instead of screen time.

They can take walks, ride bikes or scooters, or play outside. Offer other indoor activities, like board games or crafts. Set aside time to play with them. Kids need to be active daily. Even if you can’t be active with them, you can encourage and support them in their activities.

Have them earn screen time during the school year (and beyond).

It’s okay to make your kids complete homework and specific tasks or chores before you allow them to have screen time. There are different ways parents can put this into practice. One option is that homework and chores come first. Then they can have a set amount of screen time depending on how long it is until bedtime. Another is to allow them to earn screen time by completing chores. You can create a system where a task earns X amount of screen time.

Encourage your children’s creativity.

If your child loves watching videos or playing video games, encourage them to create their own. My daughter loves to make videos when we travel. She wants to show others the places she visits and tell them about her experiences. We don’t share these, but she is learning how to vlog. When she gets a little older, she can learn how to create these and make them shareable. 

Engage with your child’s technology. 

Watch videos with your kids and learn to play their games. Both of my kids enjoy watching YouTube creators. We watch with them so we can understand what they are watching, but also learn with them. My son loves to watch a former NASA engineer, and my daughter enjoys cooking videos. We’ve learned a lot as a family through their videos. It’s also common in our house to have family video game nights. Let’s just say MarioKart tournaments get intense!

Look for ways to engage screens as a family through games, videos, or apps.

Use mistakes as teachable moments. 

As your child learns more about technology and screens, they will make mistakes. They may accidentally visit an inappropriate site, watch content you would not approve of, or go over their screen time. Mistakes are great learning opportunities. 

Questions to consider moving forward:

  • What’s one way you can improve your own screen-time habits?
  • What are routines you can start to encourage physical activity and creativity?
  • What area in your house can you designate as a tech-charging zone?
  • What are activities your child can engage in that don’t involve screens?
  • What task can your child complete to earn screen time?
  • What’s one show that your family can watch and use to grow together?

Managing screen time requires patience. Pick one or two of these that you can implement, and choose the easiest for your family. The key is consistency. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right all the time. Remember, their mistakes (and ours) make for great teachable moments.

Other articles:

Your Ultimate Guide to Screen Time

How Much Should You Limit Kids’ Screen Time and Electronics Use?

Screen Time for Kids: Guidelines, Boundary Setting, and Educational Recommendations

Sources:

1American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Screen Time and Children.

2American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and media tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

3U.S. National Library of Medicine. Health risks of an inactive lifestyle.

4Barnett, T.A., et al. (2018). Sedentary behaviors in today’s youth—approaches to the prevention and management of childhood obesity: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000591.

5Chang, A.M., et al. (2015). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112.

Moreno, M.A., et al. (2016). Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2592.

Does My Teen Need Screen Time Limits?

Consider these things as you set some guidelines.

Short Answer: Yes, your teen needs screen time limits, but it’s not quite that simple. What screen time limits look like depends on your teen and your relationship with them. The limits you set have much less to do with the screens and much more with the teens.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult. You’re working yourself out of a job.

Long Answer: I was waiting for the “On-Air” light on the set of a local talk show. My segment was about technology and families, particularly teens, smartphones, and social media. I was excited because:

I’m passionate about how technology affects families and relationships, so I’ve been following the research for some time. 

And I’m parenting a teen, and I talk to other parents about these issues. I’m in this with you. I know it’s hard.

My mind was on my messaging as I waited for that light to come on. What do I tell parents about screens and teens? Easy.

Emphasize parenting principles.

1. There’s no substitute (app, program, setting, filter) for a strong, healthy relationship between a parent and their teen. 

2. Talking to teens about screen time and technology is an ongoing thing. It requires talking about many other unrelated things. Things THEY want to talk about when THEY are open to talk. ★ If parents don’t put in genuine relationship work, teens won’t hear their parents talk about screen time (or just about anything else).

3. Stay informed about the technology your teen uses, but, more importantly, stay informed about your teen. Notice their moods, changes in their behavior, and how they spend their time. Is your teen generally responsible and trustworthy? Developing appropriate life skills? Well-rounded and balanced? Have things like pornography, sexting, and cyberbullying already been a part of their screen use?

4. Leading by example is essential when it comes to screen time and technology.

What is your relationship with technology? Are you modeling the behaviors you’d like to see from your teen?

On-Air! 

And to my frustration, the host only wanted to talk about kids being abducted because of what they posted online. Wow.Oh.Okay.Um.Yeah. We can talk about all that, I guess. This is the kind of stuff parents are up against when talking to their teens about screens.

What makes it HARDER to talk about screens with teens?

  • The media feeds parents a steady stream of sensationalized, scary stories.
  • The research in this area, frankly, is all over the place. (To be fair, we’re talking about relatively new and constantly-evolving technology.) This can confuse and frustrate well-intentioned parents. Examples?

I could link to studies to “prove” all of the following:

  • Screens keep teens from socializing. No, they help teens socialize.
  • Screens hinder cognitive development. No, they help cognitive development.
  • Screens hurt teens’ mental health. No, hurting teens gravitate to screens. Or, screens can help heal teens’ mental health. (I think all three can be true.)
  • Screens make it harder to keep teens safe. No, they make it easier to keep teens safe.  
  • Screens interrupt teens’ sleep patterns. No, they can help repair those patterns.

Teens quickly point out any hypocrisy between their parent’s message and their parent’s example. And teens are often more tech-savvy than their parents.

These screens on smartphones, tablets, and laptops are already ingrained in your average teen’s life. In positive, practical ways:

  • Online learning. 
  • Homework and projects. 
  • Virtual college visits. 
  • Work and sports scheduling. 
  • Connecting with family & extended family. 
  • Shopping for stuff they need. 
  • Outlets for creativity & developing new skills & hobbies. 
  • Not getting lost driving. 
  • Calling for help if they need it. 
  • Simply texting that practice has been canceled is a huge help.

A screen is a tool. How is your teen using it? True, it’s a powerful tool, but screens aren’t good or bad. And they are here to stay.

So, let’s get practical.

Here are some adaptable ideas about screen time limits that may (or may not) help your teen.

⇨ I don’t usually make a point about this, but the links in this blog take you to the info you want and need. Click ’em for some deeper practical information for screens and your unique teen!

  • Screens can isolate. Screen use only in “common areas” of the house. No screens in their bedroom. Or no screens in their bedroom at night.
  • Screens can distract. (Part 1) Screens get put to “bed” in the kitchen or the parent’s bedroom to charge overnight, so teens can read, think, and even be “bored” before they fall asleep. Teens can use old-fashioned alarm clocks. ☆ Are You Up For It?

Set the example. Everybody’s phone charges overnight outside the bedroom. You might unwind and fall asleep better, too! 

  • Screens can distract. (Part 2) “Notifications” are a phone’s way of saying, “Notice me now!” But notifications can be turned off completely, muted, put in “Do Not Disturb” mode or “Driving Mode.” Help your teen learn to check their phone when they need to, not when their phone wants them to. Here’s notification help.
  • Screens can demand. Most smartphones come with Screen Use Monitoring weekly reports. These reports show time spent on social media, entertainment, productivity, etc. ☆ Are You Up For It? Offer to compare your report with your teen’s. Make a game out of it. You can both set goals for next week!

Talking To Your Teen About Screens… And Other Things.

  • It can be challenging to get your teen to talk about anything. Here’s help. And here.
  • In general, you’re working toward a conversation with your teen, not a confrontation.
    • Try to have a genuine dialogue. Listen to your teen’s ideas and input. It’s not a weakness to collaborate, negotiate, and have some give and take. Agree to boundaries that leave room for your teen to prove they’re responsible and trustworthy. Being clear about consequences for choices outside those boundaries is essential.
  • Screens can tempt even the BEST teen into making BAD decisions – it happens. Try responding instead of reacting. Pornography. Sexting. Cyberbullying. Posting things that come back to haunt them when they apply for a job or college. 
  • Try to interact with your teen and their screens. The fancy term is “joint media engagement.” Watch ’em play some video games. Ask them to show you the funny Tik Toks. Ask about posts that confused/frustrated/angered them today? This can start great conversations.
  • Ask your teen how social media makes them feel about themselves and their life. Then listen and listen. When it comes to social media, encourage your teen to create, not just consume.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult, and screens are gonna be part of their life.

One day, you won’t be there to limit their screen time, but you can prepare them now.

Today, more than anything, your teen needs you.

FYI: I shared an interview experience that disappointed me. Check out this “On-Air” experience that went well! 

Other blogs:

How to Create Social Media Rules in Your Marriage – First Things First

When (and How) Should I Give My Child A Cell Phone? – First Things First

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

Your Ultimate Guide to Screen Time

These guidelines can set you on a path to better relationships.

Have you paused lately to look around at our technological world? From smart home devices to self-driving cars, it’s a lot to take in. And then, we have to guide our children on how to engage with all this – and talk about screen time. It’s overwhelming to hear all the different voices, from professionals to friends, telling us how our kids should use technology. Our kids are growing up in a world where digital identities are just as real as physical ones. And it’s not like there’s a well-laid out manual for helping your child navigate an ever-changing technological world.

You may be wondering, “What in the world do I do here?” 

We can ask a different question, though. It’s this: “How can my family use technology without allowing technology to use us?”

As you make your plan, consider your personal situation. Based on American Academy of Pediatrics research, these general guidelines can help you navigate technology use in your home. 

Screen time: the good and the bad.

Screen time isn’t wrong in and of itself. It’s all about how you use it. There are many benefits to co-viewing with younger children and using technology to promote learning and conversation.

Too much screen time can be linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Lower academic performance
  • Violence

Benefits of screen time:

  • Exposure to new ideas and information
  • Connection to family and friends who are geographically distant
  • Co-viewing and co-playing with your child can promote healthy development
  • Digital tools can promote school readiness or enhance learning

Recommended screen time limits per the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Birth to 18 months: No screens, except for video chats with family and friends.
  • 18 months to 2 years: Limit screen time and view with your child. Introduce high-quality educational programming.
  • 2-5 years: Limit screen time to an hour a day (outside of academics) and watch together, if possible.
  • 6-12 years: Place consistent limits on screen time as determined by the family. Ensure that screen time doesn’t impact your child’s sleep, exercise, or behavior.

Tips for setting screen time guidelines.

Be conscious of your screen usage.

The first tip is to look in the mirror. Kids learn from what they see. You may need screen time limits as much as they do.

Create a Family Media Use Plan.

Creating a plan as a family is powerful. Of course, you, as the parent, have to determine how much screen time your child has. But there is power in allowing them to craft how that looks and what other activities they can be involved in to ensure they exercise their physical and creative skills.

Utilize screen time limits on devices.

Most devices have parental controls for screen time usage. Use all the tools at your disposal.

Balance screen time with quality personal time.

Children need parental or caretaker engagement to develop emotionally and socially. Ensure that you’re balancing their screen time with your presence.

Avoid screens at mealtime.

Meals are a fantastic way to connect as a family. Focus the time on discussing what everyone’s day was like or asking questions to spur conversation.

Avoid screens in the bedroom.

A child’s bedroom is a great place to play and rest. At a young age, avoid allowing them to take screens into their room as much as possible.

Turn off all screens during family outings.

Screens can be distracting when the family is engaging in activities together. Turn off screens for all family members (parents included).

Unplug from screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Our brains need time to decompress and rest. Spend this time reading together to prepare everyone for a restful night.

What this means for you.

Your child is going to use screens. It’s how they connect with the world. Do your best to help guide how they use screen time in a healthy way. Sure, you may bend or break the rules at times. You may need to give in to more screen time ‘cause you need a break or have to get something done. That’s ok. Your child will continue to develop and grow. What they need more than strict tech rules is an involved parent. Make sure they are getting outdoors and playing and creating. If you haven’t navigated screens well up to this point, that’s ok. There’s no better time to start than the present.

Other blogs:

Seven Things Every Child Needs to Thrive

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family – First Things First

How to Talk to Your Teen About Sexting – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

Sources:

Children and too much screen time – Mayo Clinic Health System

Physical Activity Counters Impact of Kids’ Screen Time

5 ways screen time can benefit children and families – Child Trends

Physical Activity Counters Impact of Kids’ Screen Time

Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep

Media and Young Minds | Pediatrics

Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents | Pediatrics

Hey, Mom or Dad! If you’re like me, managing screen time for your kids can be a struggle. How much should they have? What impact is that tiny screen having on their development? What about when they’re on screens at school? I get it. The questions about screen time limits can be overwhelming.

There are countless articles addressing screen time for kids. 

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has several age-specific recommendations in Media and Young Minds. To name a few, they recommend no media for children 2 and younger and only one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5. Well, I’ll be the first parent to raise my hand and admit I dropped the ball there. 

Maybe you’re right there with me. If so, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting over the past nine years, it’s that we need to give ourselves (and our kids) a lot of grace. We didn’t get a parenting handbook the day they were born, and they didn’t get a child handbook, either. We’re all learning as we go. 

Now back to those pesky screens. They’re everywhere, and they’re part of everyday life. So, we need a plan to use them (and not let them use us).

Limiting screen time is very important for your child’s development, but limiting your own is just as important. 

Oh no, he didn’t just say that! 

Yes. Yes, I did!

You want to be a good parent. You know that the best way your child learns is through example. Your kids learned to walk and eat by watching you do it. Whatever trait they’ve learned, they learned from someone. Technology usage is no different. 

And this isn’t just about teaching your kid how to use technology effectively. It’s about you using it effectively and managing your screen time.

Setting downtime from screens has many benefits

Here are just a few:

  1. It improves your physical health.
  2. Frees up time to play.
  3. Allows you to make better social connections.
  4. Boosts your mood.

Those benefits are for you, not just your kids.

I know I’m asking a lot. Don’t worry, I’m looking in the mirror challenging myself here, too. I need to set better screen boundaries for myself. 

So, where do we start? 

Here are a few ways you can help set limits for the entire family.

1. Create tech-free zones in the house.

Talk to your family and create some tech-free areas or times at home. The dinner table is an excellent place to start. Make a rule that while you eat dinner, no phones or TV. But what are you going to do? I’m so glad you asked. Take this time to ask questions. Check in on each other’s days. Grab a list of random questions and work through those.

2. Establish tech-free times. 

Maybe you can have a weekly game or movie night. A movie involves a screen, but you can put all other devices on airplane mode or away while the movie is on. Implement those movie theater rules. Set aside times for you and your partner to be tech-free after the kids go to bed. Be intentional about your time together.

3. Turn off notifications.

Turning off my notifications was one of the best things I ever did with my phone. The only notifications I get are messages and the weather. When your notifications are off, you choose when you use the technology. You don’t let the little ding dictate your usage. Researchers have even proven the little notification ding gives us a shot of dopamine.

4. Track screen time.

This one is for everyone. Most phones or devices have screen time or screen health settings. Track the usage for the family. Set sleep times for all devices and limit screen exposure before bed so it doesn’t interfere with sleep quality. Monitor what you use your device for and when. 

Modeling healthy technology use for your kids will help them in so many ways. Remember, not all screen time is bad, and there are plenty of creative ways to use technology as a family. Just being intentional about your usage and setting some limits can create positive change now and in the future. 

Other helpful blogs:

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family – First Things First

When (and How) Should I Give My Child A Cell Phone? – First Things First

How to Create Social Media Rules in Your Marriage – First Things First

Sources:

https://ifstudies.org/blog/is-our-addiction-to-pleasure-destroying-us

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/5-ways-slimming-screen-time-is-good-for-your-health

https://www.verywellfamily.com/cut-kids-screen-time-for-health-621154

https://www.verywellfamily.com/kids-and-technology-when-to-limit-it-and-how-621145

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/13/why-you-should-be-reducing-screen-time-and-3-simple-tips-to-do-it.html

https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/138/5/e20162591/60503/Media-and-Young-Minds

3 Reasons To Let Your Child Have More Screen Time

How they spend their time in front of a screen matters.

You’re a good parent. You wouldn’t call yourself one. You’re truly humbled by how much you don’t know about parenting. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed. Often, it’s like you’re flying by the seat of your pants. But you care. You’re trying hard at this parenting thing. So, you invest time in reading about health, nutrition, and child development. As a good parent, you’re concerned about the effects of technology and screen time on kids, especially for your child. There’s alarming but also alarmist info out there. So, let’s set the record straight. Maybe this can clear up some confusion or lift lingering guilt. 

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) released their lengthy GUIDELINES ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, SEDENTARY BEHAVIOUR, AND SLEEP FOR CHILDREN UNDER 5 YEARS OF AGE.

Their conclusions regarding screen time:

  • None for kids younger than 2 years old.
  • Just 60 minutes per day for 3- to 4-year-olds.

In an NPR interview, Fiona Bull, the chairperson of the WHO team that created the guidelines, said, “We’re concerned — and the evidence shows — that extended periods of time passively watching screens is detrimental to health, particularly for very young children.” 

Case closed, right? It’s easy for parents to read such edicts and come away with the idea that screens are a radioactive toxin.

But there are two phrases here that need to be unpacked and examined::

  • “Extended periods of time.” (The report uses qualifiers like “hours,” “sedentary,” and “restrained.” Translation: A child lying around or being strapped into something, in front of a screen for over an hour.)
  • “Passively watching.” (This is in contrast to “actively engaging.” Especially engagement accompanied by a parent.)

Maybe the case against screens isn’t closed. Let’s focus on case management instead. Here are three types of screen time the WHO report is NOT addressing. 

  1. Video Chatting. This is the time you let your child interact with a person like Daddy or Grandmom on a screen. This isn’t “passively watching.” Instead, this is engaging and is just as developmentally appropriate as talking, reading, or singing to your child. 
  2. Screen as Pacifier. Yes. Life happens. Your child is wailing with an intensity that has you considering the pediatric benefits of exorcism. Still, you aren’t quite finished with a work Zoom meeting. Or you just need a quick shower. Or it’s a 15-minute car ride. This is real life. Trust your parenting survival instincts. Your phone is no different than a pacifier or toy you would use to occupy your child. Don’t let the WHO guilt you on this. Note: This is a screen as a short-term pacifier, not a screen as a free babysitter
  3. Co-Viewing. Joint media engagement. Anytime you’re interacting with your child and a screen is fine. Point out shapes and colors. Count things. Identify animals in an interactive storybook. Move items on the touch-screen. This is not the sort of thing the WHO is discouraging, so snuggle up. (Academic guilt relief, here and here.)

You’re a good parent. Think of screen time like sweets. Little treats, especially shared, can be just the thing to get your child, and you, through the day.

Other helpful resources:

Your teen has been much more quiet and withdrawn lately. They aren’t very talkative, are easily agitated and their mood has consistently been down. The big question in your mind is, “Is my teen depressed?”

The teen years are filled with highs and lows, so much so that it often feels like being on a roller coaster ride in the dark with lots of twists and turns, none of which you see coming. In a word, these years can be full of turbulence.

With all of the change going on, it is sometimes hard for parents to know if their teen is just going through a rough patch or if something bigger is going on like depression.

Approximately 1 in 5 teens from all walks of life will experience depression at some point during their teen years, which can be very scary for parents. In many instances, teens themselves don’t understand what is going on, why they feel the way they do or even how to talk about what they are experiencing.

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of teen depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Irritable or annoyed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide*
  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite—decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Agitation or restlessness—for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches, which may include frequent visits to the school nurse
  • Social isolation
  • Poor school performance or frequent absences from school
  • Less attention to personal hygiene or appearance
  • Angry outbursts, disruptive or risky behavior, or other acting-out behaviors
  • Self-harm—for example, cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing
  • Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt

When a teen is depressed, they can’t “just snap out of it.” But, there are things parents can do to help kids decipher their feelings and determine the best next steps. If a significant number of symptoms are present for two weeks, this is a good indication that it is time to reach out for help from a professional.

Things You Can Do If You Believe Your Teen Might Be Struggling With Depression

It may help to open the door to constructive conversation and let them know that if they are struggling with this, they can share with you.

Listen intently.

Avoid lecturing, as in, “If you would just…” It may be hard because they can be moody, but seek to be present and listen to what is going on in their world if they are willing to share with you. If they tell you how bad things are, avoid making statements like, “I think you are blowing things out of proportion” or “It really isn’t that bad.” Remember that perception is everything and even though you may feel like their perception is not accurate, this is their reality and understanding this is the starting point for being able to help them.

One other thing that might be helpful here—sometimes teens find it easier to talk about something difficult when they are doing something. Shooting hoops, running, taking a hike, doing yard work, cooking or anything that doesn’t make them have direct eye contact with you and gives them something to do with their hands while they are trying to share with you works. 

Encourage exercise, eating right, getting enough rest and being outdoors.

All of these things help to combat depression.

Acknowledge their feelings.

You don’t have to agree with them, but you do need to acknowledge them. When a teen is depressed they often feel like they are trying to slog through mud and fog. It’s hard to pinpoint feelings because everything feels “blah.” When they are able to pinpoint an emotion, validate it and work to keep the conversation going.

Avoid telling them what to do to “fix” the situation they are in.

Instead, ask them what they think they need to do. If they ask you for your thoughts, that’s the time to give some input. However, don’t give not too much because they can become overwhelmed quickly.

Work to help them avoid isolation and increase face time.

This is especially hard with COVID-19 factors at play. Be intentional about creating family time and encourage (don’t force) them to participate. Exercise with them. Look for activities they enjoy and do those things with them.

Limit screen time.

Many parents are tired of trying to take on this battle, but there is plenty of research indicating that lots of screen time can lead to depression. A recent study suggests that greater screen time—whether in the form of computers, cell phones, or tablets—may have contributed to a spike in depression and suicide-related behaviors and thoughts among American teens, particularly girls, between 2010 and 2015. Several studies show that when teens reluctantly agreed to give up screens for a week, they confessed at the end that they felt so much better without them.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

As the parent, it is important to trust your gut if you feel your teen is depressed. If you don’t feel like anything you are doing is helping, seek assistance. You can go see someone or find someone for your teen to talk to. Having a depressed teen does not reflect poorly on you and your parenting skills. Adolescence is terribly complicated. Quarantine, COVID-19, no school, no summer camps or other activities has made it very hard on teens who are typically super social in nature.

Dealing with depression in your teen can be exhausting on multiple levels. Not only are you interacting with your teen and questioning whether or not you are doing the right thing, but thoughts about what you are experiencing can consume every moment of your day and sometimes the night. Walking this road can feel isolating and lonely, so it is important to surround yourself with supportive people, seek help for yourself, educate yourself and take time away to regroup. 

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Think back to summers when you were a kid. You might recall getting up, doing a few chores and then heading outside to play, only taking a break for lunch. Your mom or dad’s call for dinner was probably met with complaints about coming inside.

In an informal survey of adults about their childhood summer memories, people recalled catching fireflies, climbing trees, fishing and playing outside with friends. They also mentioned riding bikes, running through the sprinkler and lots of other activities. As they thought about their response, they usually smiled and laughed as the memories replayed in their mind.

Times have changed.

Instead of spending time playing outside, various studies indicate many children will get up and Schead straight to some type of screen. In fact, 8 to 10-year-olds spend on average between five and seven hours playing games, watching movies or television. For teens, this number increases. This is a stark contrast to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that children 10 and older spend no more than two hours a day watching a screen.

Too much screen time can increase a child’s risk of having trouble sleeping at night, experiencing attention issues and developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that children eat more unhealthy food while watching screens, which can lead to weight gain.

While many parents grow weary, the battle between choosing screen time or memories is definitely one worth fighting.

When children move away from screens and interact with others, it helps them develop communication skills. They also learn how to get along with others and problem-solve when there is disagreement over a kickball game score. Play helps build a child’s imagination and enhances their ability to entertain themselves.

So, here’s a challenge: Unplug from the screens and encourage your kids to spend their time in other ways.

Initially, you will undoubtedly get the usual push-back, but stand your ground. Know that you are setting the stage for your children to create some great memories. If they say they are bored, offer them some ways to work around the house. They’ll probably find something to do in order to avoid chores – and it teaches your child to entertain themselves.

The AAP actually says that doing nothing at all is better than staring at a screen.

For example, car rides without DVDs allow a child to look at their surroundings and let their imagination run wild.

While unplugging might not be the most convenient thing to do, see it as intentional preparation for launching your child. Moving away from screens gives them the chance to learn the necessary skills to help them navigate through life. Who’s up for the challenge?

Other blogs:

Does My Teen Need Screen Time Limits?

Why You Need Screen Time Limits, Too (Not Just Your Kids!)

3 Reasons to Let Your Child Have More Screen Time

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!