Saturday, December 26, 2015

Make Screen Time Work for Your Family over Break

It's holiday time which means a full house and plenty of temptation to zone out with your tablet or in front of the TV. Here’s how to make sure your daughter stays engaged and actually gets something out of the time she spends with her devices. 

On a cold or snowy day, a day of Netflix or video games and hot chocolate can seem like the most perfect activity in the whole world. Still, there’s a lot of talk about how excessive amounts of screen time can be detrimental to children. The truth is, though, that not all screen time is bad, and in fact, it can be beneficial when done right!

“Screen time can have value—especially around the holidays, because this time of year can be so over-stimulating,” says Girl Scouts’ Developmental Psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “And there are definitely things you can do as a parent to ensure that her screen time is well spent, and not just a filler.”

Follow these 5 tips and you’ll be set!

Watch Together and Get Involved
Sit with your daughter when she watches her favorite shows or movies, and ask her questions. Have no idea who certain characters are? Ask her to explain their backstories! Better yet, ask her what she thinks will happen next, or what she hopes will happen. The trick is to get her thinking and talking. This helps both her cognitive skills and her social skills.

Go for Games
Video games get a bad rap as being mindless entertainment, but playing a game that involves strategy is engaging her brain, making her think, and possibly even teaching her something, depending on how educational the game is. That’s why many experts say that game-based learning time is better than time spent passively watching videos.  If there’s a two-player option, all the better! Challenge her to a game, or have her teach you how to play.

Create Some Tech-Free Zones
We all love our phones, but it’s important that your family spends time really connecting face-to-face over the holidays, too. Set aside dinner time as a tech-free time.

Embrace Social Media
For adolescents today, social media plays an important role in helping them form their self-identity, strong friendships, and communication skills—especially when she’s away from her besties over break. You don't want your daughter to be left out, but obviously you want to keep her safe, too. If she’s on social media sites, make sure you know which ones, and talk to her about what she does on them. Healthy spot checks to make sure all is okay on her pages is a good idea, too.

Turn Off the Screens Before Bed
The type of light that shines out of our phones, tablets, and other devices messes with our sleep patterns, and actually has an even greater effect on teenagers than on adults. Help your daughter get a good night’s sleep by making sure all screen time is finished at least an hour before bedtime.