A Screen Time Behavior Plan
How to manage your child’s exposure to blue light / back lit technology
By David A. Morris, LCSW
We know from the last blog “The Battle for Screen Time” that back lit technology (Flat screen televisions, smart phones, e-readers, tablets and more) significantly numbs your brain’s reward system, increases stress, and causes havoc to your sleep routine.
Almost all the latest research on screen time exposure points towards problems with regulating depression, losing focus and attention, and suppression of melatonin in the brain. It can be scary especially when you consider national screen time expert and child psychiatrist Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley’s quote,
“a child’s sensitive nervous system can become overstimulated and hyperaroused from moderate but regular amounts of screen time. This causes the brain to be in a state of chronic stress and effectively short circuits the frontal lobe, creating a host of symptoms that mimic or exacerbate mental health, learning, and behavioral disorders.”
We know the exposure to blue light for extended periods of time and at night time is not good for us or our children.
But, how do we make changes in a world that screams “Watch Me!”?
First we answer these key questions:
- Is my child watching more than 60 minutes of screen time during the day?
- Is my child watching more than 20 minutes of screen time at night?
- Does my child have access to back lit technology while I am asleep?
- Is my child’s mood, attention span, and lack of sleep impacting their daily life?
If many of these answers are yes, it may be time to make changes.
Here are some strategies to try, starting from relatively easy to more difficult:
- Bring Down Brightness on ALL Screens – each screen has a setting. Flat screens have a “natural light” setting. Tablets and phones have a power saver and low light tone setting called ‘Color Temperature’. There is software and app downloads to darken or “warm” the screens especially as the light of day changes. (e.g. f.Lux software)
- Add Sunlight and Green Life to Your Day – Green spaces like parks, forests, even walks in the neighborhood can enhance mental health not to mention increase the regulation and production of melatonin in your brain. Natural settings improve alertness through a calming approach rather than stressful one.
- Reduce Screen Time During Day and Night – Set a new standard in the home for screen time. Less than 60 minutes during the day time and less than 20 minutes once the sun has set. If this is a dramatic departure from your current family habits, then consider a reward system for those who comply.
- Turn Off the Wifi at a Set Time – Choose a time, closely linked to the setting of the sun, to turn the Wifi off. This will significantly reduce screen time usage and create more time for bonding with each other.
- Start a Screen Time Fast – The ultimate change would be to take extended fasts from any screen time. Start with one day and work your way to whole weeks without screen time, especially after the sun sets. This one could be difficult but some children respond better to this approach then a gradual reduction.
If you are concerned about your child and the use of screen time in your household, please contact New Directions Counseling Services at 724.395.3904. One our compassionate, expert child/family therapists can help you.