Promoting digital well-being and balanced screen time in the New Year

If you and your family were fortunate enough to enjoy some downtime time over the holidays, it’s likely at one point or another you lifted your gaze from your device and the concern of screen time came over you. When school, extracurricular and work commitments aren’t all consuming, it can be even easier to get caught up in mindless social media scrolling, endless YouTube video viewing and non-stop video gaming. My kids certainly had more screen time this holiday season than they normally do – my daughter can’t get enough slime and life hack videos, and my son loves to challenge his dad at multiple games of NHL 19 on the XBox.

While it’s almost impossible to avoid screen time all together in today’s connected world – and it’s ok to give in to cherished holiday movie watching, the Santa Tracker, and Facetime with family from afar – there are steps you can take to manage screen time more effectively, and conversations you can have to ensure technology isn’t negatively impacting your family’s well-being, even after the holidays.

To get the conversation started, take the TELUS Wise “How healthy is your relationship with technology” quiz to gain insight into your own screen time behaviours. If you think screen time could be a concern in your home, or you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution fit for the whole family, consider some of these tips from TELUS Wise on how to best balance screen time.

  1. Encourage kids to be mindful of when, where and why they are using screens. If your child picks up their device, ask them what they plan to do. If there isn’t a clear answer (e.g. to check the hockey score or forecast before heading out), remind them to be purposeful when using their devices.
  2. When screen time is up, offer suggestions for how your family  can extend the online activities that they enjoy into the physical world. For instance, when my daughter has watched one too many slime videos, I help her shut it down by inviting her to actually make her own slime creations in our kitchen. My son enjoys drawing pictures of his favourite NHL teams’ goalies in the net. If you have a family schedule to keep organized, consider adding screen time in appropriate time slots alongside  non-screen activities like outdoor play time, homework time and family time, teaching kids to manage and balance  screen time and other activities.
  3. Talk to your kids about nourishing vs. depleting online activities, and guide them toward activities that have positive effects. Nourishing activities add value and leave you feeling positive. An example of this could be learning a new skill online – my kids are learning how to code by creating simple animations and games on Scratch, a popular coding website for kids. Depleting online activities, on the other hand, can leave you feeling drained, anxious or unhappy. Comparing oneself to others on social media, feeling anxious about the need to be aware of and involved in what is happening online, and maintaining Snapchat streaks are examples.
  4. Be a good role model. Children learn by example and they may question why you impose screen time limits for their well-being if you aren’t holding yourself accountable to the same standards. Make an effort to manage your own screen time and be mindful about device use. For instance, when you pick up your device in the presence of your kids, ensure your kids know what your purpose is by sharing it out loud with them (for instance, “I’m checking my calendar to see when your dentist appointment is” or “I’m going to send a quick work email”). Put your phone away at the dinner table and before bed, and your kids are more likely to follow suit.

While screen time activities have a time and a place, they are best done in moderation for youth and adults alike. Read the TELUS Wise tip sheet “Managing screens in your home” for more tips on keeping screen time under control, and making screen use a valuable part of your family’s lives.