Over QuaranScreened? Tips from Episcopal to Handle Too Much Screen Time

Given the current environment and reliance on remote learning, it’s really important to manage screen time for overall good health when everything from school to church to ballet lessons is being offered online. It is also essential to focus on helping students learn how to discern when to use technology, how to assess when it is starting to dominate their thinking, and how to have the courage to make necessary changes in their interactions with technology. 

Tracy Jester, Episcopal School of Jacksonville’s Physical Education Teacher and Associate Director of Honor Education, shares advice for how to adjust to increased technology use during remote learning, with input from ESJ Learning Specialist Tim Stegnik.

“Here are easy adjustments you can make to help decrease eye strain and help your posture during remote learning,” said Ms. Jester. “These are some of the tricks you can try to help reduce headaches, blurred vision and stiffness in your head, neck and shoulders.”

Tips to Decrease Eye Strain

  1. Adjust your monitor settings so that the screen brightness is consistent with your environment. You want to avoid having the screen too bright or too dark. 
  2. Under display settings you can turn on “Night Light” to decrease the amount of blue light emitted. 
  3. Use the 20-20-20 rule, set a timer, every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds, looking at an object 20 feet away. 
  4. One of the easiest things to do is just take a break! When you don’t need to look at a screen for online learning or virtual classes, church services, or exercise classes — turn it off! Play a board game, go outside, play with a pet, ride your bike, or go for a run. 

Tips for Good Posture:

  1. Computer monitor should be directly in front of you. The top of the monitor should sit slightly below eye level. 
  2. Your chair should have a slight recline of about 100-110 degrees. (Ironically, sitting upright will quickly fatigue your core muscles.) Sit all the way back in the chair so your back is supported with your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Take breaks from sitting. The recommendation is to take a break every 30-60 minutes by walking around for 3-5 minutes. Create alarms or set timers to remind you to get up and move.
  4. Stretch to improve flexibility and strength in the head, neck, shoulders and upper back.  Video: 7 Min Posture Stretches to Improve Posture – Better Posture Workout – Posture Correction Exercises 

Resource: https://oldpodcast.com/sitting-computer-all-day-tips/

Since avoiding screen time is not a reality for most of us at this point, parents need to adjust expectations that their children will abstain from additional screen time outside of school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently relaxed previous recommendations for total daily screen time and now encourages families to focus on positive use of technology. Parents can keep in mind that Zoom and FaceTime calls with friends can introduce a healthy quality to screen time since they involve social interaction, and they can actually help combat isolation and “FOMO,” or Fear of Missing Out. Both represent a positive alternative to screen time that looks more like solitary scrolling through Instagram for lengthy periods of time. 

Still not sure you have enough structure for your family’s screen time? Try implementing a Family Media Plan, like this one from Common Sense Media. It’s also important to remember that parents also need to adjust screen time expectations for themselves in order to model good boundaries and limits for their children.

Episcopal recently received funding from the Winston Family Foundation for a grant program entitled Technology and Teenagers. Surveys conducted through ESJ’s Health, Safety, and Well-Being program have identified social media and technology as key contributors to student anxiety levels. Teachers echo the sentiment. 

Amy Burrows Perkins ‘92, Episcopal’s Director of Student Services, and Tracy Jester, who will serve as the faculty liaison for the initiative, will lead the initiative for the school as part of ESJ’s Health, Safety, and Well-Being program.

“Parents, teachers, and students themselves have guided us to prioritize technology as a Health, Safety, and Well-Being focus. With remote learning in place, the timing of this grant provides us with a unique opportunity to hone in on issues impacting students and faculty, and quickly implement solutions. Tracy and I look forward to partnering with all of our community’s stakeholders to make the most out of this opportunity,” shares Amy.

This includes inclusive conversations with students about the importance of technology and social media in their lives and how faculty and staff can partner with them to disempower the negative consequences of a culture that has become saturated with curated online behavior. A student leader will be appointed to serve as a liaison between the student body and the program leaders. 

For more good tips on being “quaranscreened,” and how to take advantage of the time at home, visit https://www.westartnow.org/blog/feelingquaranscreened