Group of students looking at a computer monitor together.

Should Screen Time at School Count Toward Kids’ Total Screen Time?

by Screen Time Team on 21/08/2019

As schools become more tech-savvy, kids are spending more time at computers, on tablets, and otherwise working with screens. But should that count as “screen time” for parents’ purposes? It depends on how much time is spent, and why you’re concerned.

Screens At School

First, you should figure out the total amount of screen time. Parents should talk to teachers about overall screen time use at school. Schools can vary widely on approaches here, but as a rule, kids won’t be spending eight hours a day tapping away at a laptop. Educators plan a broad mix of activities, including group discussions, free time, and study periods.

Kids, meanwhile, especially older kids, will likely be using screens during free periods to type up papers, research answers to take-home quizzes, and other educational pursuits. When using parental control apps, in fact, it’s recommended to ask teachers what the computer schedule is, especially if kids are bringing their own devices, and how often they have to work on a screen at school. Once you know that, then you should consider your overall approach.

Medical Or Social?

Broadly, parents’ concerns about screens break down into two categories. One, they’re worried their kids are giving themselves eye damage, or straining their necks, or any of a host of other potential ailments. Call this the “medical” category. The other is that they worry that too many games or time spent on social media will distract children from spending time with friends, reading books, and other enriching activities, in other words, social growth. Sometimes the two, of course, are intertwined.

Young teen sleeping at his desk.

Medical concerns are simple enough; if kids have red eyes, stiff necks, or other indicators they’ve spent too much time on screens, you simply need to prioritize school work. You should discuss your concerns with their teachers to ensure they’re given time to heal, and that they have alternates to tablets and computers.

Social concerns are a bit more complex. It’s easy to forget the adults aren’t the only ones in the family who come home after a hard day and want to do nothing more than zone out in front of a screen. Excessive screen use could be a sign of any number of things: Depression, struggling with school work, feeling socially isolated, or even just having gone through a tough day. Even the most extroverted of us, child or not, sometimes just wants to watch some TV.

Other times, it may have nothing to do with having fun. Especially as they get older, some kids may find themselves struggling to keep up with school work, either because there’s more expectations on them, or because they have other demands, like after-school activities or work. That can be its own issue, especially as excessive screen use can make it harder to learn.

If you’re noticing a change in behavior, then ask about it. Don’t push; leave the door open to talk if they want to, especially since some topics may be a struggle for kids to open up about. In some cases, though, you may need to turn to parental control apps to turn off the screen and start a conversation.

Parental control apps can be useful for moderating screen time, whether it’s to keep screen time saved for school or to keep kids from avoiding it. To learn more, try it for free!

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