Shifting Our Screen Time Mindset
Betsy Briardy, Director of the Center for Girls

By Betsy Briardy, Director of the Center for Girls

Parenting and screen time are often at odds. Now, amidst the global pandemic and mandated work/learn from home provisions, technology and screen time has taken on a new role and importance. But still, we shouldn’t binge.

With a heavy diet of screen usage ahead, it is key to go beyond the metric of minutes and instead strive for a balance in the variety of activities and purpose of screen time. The Healthy Mind Platter, developed by Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, provides a great starting point. The framework consists of seven daily essential mental activities necessary for optimum mental health. Think of these activities as “mental nutrients” that your brain and relationships need to function at their best—just like the core food groups. Focus time, playtime, connecting time, physical time, time in, downtime and sleep time—all these ways of interacting online should be part of your “diet.” 

Before COVID-19, the bridge between screen time and mental activities wasn’t as prevalent; now, it’s taken a starring role. While we practice physical distancing, technology is providing us with the connections and content we crave. Focused learning time with others, physical activities through online yoga and workout classes, movies, books and books on tape all provide an escape. Without these avenues—especially ones like online classes and facetime where someone outside our home “pod” is within reach—we’d quickly feel isolated and insular.

COVID-19 has put a bright light on the fact that we’re social creatures; we crave community and connection, even the introverts among us. One of the most significant impacts on students is their loss of connection and community, both inside and outside of school. That’s a driver for creating community via screens through video chats, Zoom lunch meetings and even online drama rehearsals.

These virtual connections are exposing new realities; we’re learning new things about each other that not revealed within the traditional classroom. Siblings, pets (including a surprising number of reptiles), cooking recipes, dance moves—all are being shared and celebrated. Walks with parents just a month ago out of the question for many, are a welcome diversion. Phone, iPad, computer or TV, that glass has become a window and a lifeline for social connection—and for that, we’re grateful. Just don’t forget our hearts need some attention, too. Get up and move. Stretch. Take a closer look at those around you, with no glass in between.

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