Balance in a Digital World
By Mary Grubb
Finding Balance in a Digital World
Technology is at our fingertips! Everywhere we look, no matter where we are, we can access the Internet. We can be online with friends, be on social media, and watch or read the news with just a click. Our access is instantaneous and with each passing moment, we are able to acquire more information and access and do more because of this incredible power called the Internet. Here at Christian Life School, we care about our students and want them to be safe both offline and online.
It is no surprise to find that the statistics are astronomical for Internet users worldwide. Although, seeing it in print is quite astounding. According to Damjan Jugovic Spajic of Kommandotech, 4.45 billion people use the Internet. This includes television viewing, work, phones, and tablets. In 2020, 274.7 million people in the United States accessed the internet through any kind of mobile device. (U.S. mobile internet users 2025 | Statista, 2021). Mobile devices have created a new level of connectivity and accessibility for even the youngest. Most of us have seen a toddler swipe, tap, and find things on a tablet or phone in a blink of an eye! So, it is no wonder that parents are concerned about balance for their children. As distance learning became a vital part of our lives last Spring, the usage of mobile devices and computers brought screen time to new levels.
Christian Life School, like many schools, provides a safe environment while connected to the WiFi. Many homes look for safeguards for their Internet and there are some good resources out there. Protect Young Eyes, Net Nanny, and Kaspersky are all worth investigating to see what is the best fit for your family. Just as we protect our families in other ways; car seats, seatbelts; safe homes; safe schools; we need to find the right safeguards for their online digital life.
Let’s face it, though, even with having good Internet safeguards there is still much to consider about screen-time spent and what they are spending their time doing. Are they playing education games like Prodigy Math or games like Cool Math Games that really don’t have so much to do with math at all? It’s important to be vigilant about what your children are wanting to play. How many have allowed YouTube to watch a movie, cartoon, or even for help in an area? Supervised, these activities can even bring out some issues, but usually, a parent can quickly circumvent the upcoming video or possible inappropriate song. However, when young eyes are viewing this on their own, their skills are not as keen as yours. “To reduce the risk of kids stumbling onto iffy content, turn Autoplay off and Restricted Mode on.” (Caitlin Harrington, 2019) It is important to not assume that your child will not come across sites that are not appropriate for them. Unfortunately, there are links out there that look harmless but lead to things that many times cannot be unseen.
Managing screen time in this digital age can be stressful, however, if boundaries can be established, this will help alleviate that stress. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time for children and teens. Understanding the warning signs of too much time in the digital world is often a catalyst to setting expectations. If you are not sure what the warning signs are, explore these helpful tips from Priceless Parenting. After reviewing these warning signs, you may decide it is time to set up some guidelines, but you may not be sure where to start. Here is a great resource that might be helpful from Healthy Children.
As parents, life is busy and hectic and sometimes it seems that screen time is an easy break, especially during this pandemic! However, it is important to not let that always be your go-to when needing some distractions for your kiddos.
“As with young children, there are reasons for concern over large amounts of screen time in tweens and teens. Correlational studies have shown that 8- to 11-year-olds who exceed screen time recommendations scored lower on cognitive assessments, with compliance with recommendations explaining about a fifth of the overall variance in cognitive scores (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Vol. 2, No. 11, 2018). A combination of screen time and too little sleep has also been associated with heightened impulsivity in the same age group (Pediatrics, Vol. 144, No. 3, 2019).” (Pappas, 2020)
“Be informed, be purposeful to protect, and be present!”
We all want the best for our children and too much screen time is not what is best. We need to find balance in this digital world. As stated by our Christian Life School elementary principal, Mrs. Christie Gould, we should “be informed, be purposeful to protect, and be present!” When we are informed on how screen time affects our children, we can be purposeful in protecting them against things that are not healthy, and when we are protecting them we see the need to be present. Even with our older elementary students, it may seem like a natural progression to allow computers, tablets, TVs, and smartphones to be accessible anywhere, at any time, for an unlimited amount of time. This only promotes unhealthy habits, inactivity, and behavioral issues.
“On average, 8- to 12-year-olds in this country use just under five hours’ worth of entertainment screen media per day (4:44), and teens use an average of just under seven and a half hours’ worth (7:22)—not including time spent using screens for school or homework.” (Rideout, V., and Robb, M. B., 2019)
Also, interesting is the increased usage of online viewing. Not only has YouTube become popular with our children it has become a go-to for adults, as well, as they may want to learn how to repair a washing machine, watch a music video, or possibly watch a tutorial on how to watercolor. However, our 8-12-year-olds gravitate to this arena more than most groups.
“YouTube clearly dominates the online video space. Despite the fact that YouTube’s official policy is that it is for children age 13 or older, 76% of tweens say they use the site, and more than half (53%) say it’s the site they use most often (see Table 12). By comparison, only about one in four 8- to 12-year-olds (23%) say they watch YouTube Kids, and just 7% say YouTube Kids is the site they watch the most. Teens are even more likely to watch videos on YouTube: Eighty-eight percent do so, and 59% say YouTube is the site they watch the most. (The survey asked about viewing on YouTube, YouTube Kids, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Twitch, and “other” sites.)” (Rideout, V., and Robb, M. B., 2019)
With access to all that is available to them, they are spending less and less time engaging with family and friends, outdoor activities, and less time focusing on learning. Perhaps you may feel it’s too late to set up screen time boundaries because your family gravitates to screens almost instinctively every day. Don’t let this stop you from building in healthy guidelines into your day. Start with these steps:
- Evaluate your family’s screen time usage. Ask yourself and your child, what is the purpose of plugging into a screen at that moment?
- Understand that your child’s behavior might be affected by too much screen time.
- Unplug totally during certain times of the day:
- No screens during mealtime facilitates conversations
- No screens before bedtime allows for a more restful night’s sleep.
- Know the warning signs of too much screen time as stated in Priceless Parenting: Social, emotional, and behavioral concerns; difficulty in communicating; issues with focusing at school and at home; and physical changes are all issues worth noting.
- Devise a plan that works for your family. In an article from Eye Promise, the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests little to no screen time for children up to two years of age; ages 3-5 should be kept to 1 hour per day; ages 6-10 limited to no more than 1.5 horse per day, and 11-13 should be no more than 2 hours per day. “Turn off all screens during family meals and outings. Learn about and use parental controls. Avoid using screens as pacifiers, babysitters, or to stop tantrums. Turn off screens and remove them from bedrooms 30-60 minutes before bedtime.” (AACAP, 2021)
As you move forward in this journey, the task may seem daunting at first and you may even feel you are fighting a battle. Knowing that you, as the parent, have many resources available to help, will bring a sense of relief. As guidelines, boundaries, and safeguards are put in place the stress you may have been experiencing will fade away. Remember, this is a battle worth fighting.
Mary has been at Christian Life School for 17 years as an elementary technology teacher and holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. She loves teaching elementary, loves being with family, and is a big fan of finding things to do outdoors.
AUXIER, B., ANDERSON, M., PERRIN, A., & TURNER, E. (2020). Parenting Children in the Age of Screens. Retrieved 4 February 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/07/28/parenting-children-in-the-age-of-screens/
Caitlin Harrington. (2019, May 20). A food pyramid for kids’ media consumption. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.wired.com/story/kids-screen-time-pyramid/
Department, P. B., & 4, F. (2021, February 04). U.S. mobile internet users 2025. Retrieved February 5, 2021, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/275591/number-of-mobile-internet-user-in-usa/
Pappas, Stephanie. “What Do We Really Know about Kids and Screens?” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, 1 Apr. 2020, www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/cover-kids-screens.
Patrell, G. (2020, July 15). Get Printable Screen Time Recommendations by Age. EyePromise. https://www.eyepromise.com/blog/screen-time-chart/
Rideout, V., and Robb, M. B. (2019). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2019. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
Spajic, D. J. (2020, December 14). Internet Usage Statistics: Online Life By The Numbers. Retrieved February 10, 2021, from https://kommandotech.com/statistics/internet-usage-statistics/