Screen Time and Wellbeing
There has been much interest in the amount of time our teenagers spend online and looking at a screen and speculation about the possible impact on their wellbeing. Particular concerns have arisen about the light that is emitted from our mobile devices and how these affect our brains and our ability to sleep. This concerned us here at Alfriston because lack of sleep affects the memory and learning capability of our pupils.
However, recent research, from Oxford University, suggested that screen time can have significant beneficial effects on young users. They found that digital connectivity enhanced creativity, communication skills and development. They suggested that there is an optimal amount of screen time or a “Goldilocks” zone as they put it, about two hours on a smartphone each day, for example.
We decided to ask our pupils what they thought about some of these issues and to formulate some guidance for parents.
The Student Council formulated some questions and issued a questionnaire to our pupils.
Do you enjoy using the Internet?
Do you think the Internet is mostly safe or unsafe?
Do you think using a computer or tablet etc late at night interferes with your sleep?
Do you talk to your parents or other adults about the things you do on the internet?
How long do you think it is reasonable to be using your device each day?
From what time do you think it would be reasonable for parents to say you must stop using your device?
Is it OK to use your device at the dinner table?
Is it OK to use your device when there are visitors to your home?
Is it OK to use your device secretly (eg without your parents knowing)?
Is it reasonable that your parents or other adults should be able to look on your device to see what you have been doing?
Have you ever been bullied online?
Have you ever been mean to somebody else online?
We were not surprised to find that the vast majority of pupils enjoyed using the Internet. However, it was surprising that so many of them considered that, on the whole, the Internet is unsafe.
This seems to underline the importance of making sure that parents and other adults are equipped to support our pupils through their online experiences.
Most pupils also assessed that using their devices late at night did affect their ability to sleep well
Additionally, the majority of pupils were also accepting of the idea that it was reasonable to limit the amount of time and the latest time that they should be allowed to use their devices.
When it came to questions of netiquette, our pupils also had some clear cut views, although they were divided on whether parents should look on their devices to see what they were up to.
It was pleasing to find that the number of pupils who consider that they have been bullied online is relatively small and the number who admit to being mean to others is even smaller.
Nonetheless, any amount of bullying is too much and we should all work hard to ensure that the Internet is a positive and pleasant place to visit.
The theme of Safer Internet Day 2017 was “Unite for a better Internet” and we encouraged our pupils to do just that. They can assess their own contributions by asking themselves 3 simple questions:
- Is it true?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
If the answer is no at any point then they should not post, share or send.
With the results of this survey in mind, and other research findings, we have put together some guidance notes for parents and carers and hope that you will find these useful.
Screen Time and Wellbeing
Guidance for parents
- Don’t prevent your daughter from going online and don’t block everything that might interest her
- Be a good parent. Know where your daughter goes online, what she is doing and who with
- Engage with your daughter in the online world – keep a dialogue going about what you each do on the Internet. Create an environment where she is happy to talk about what she does online. Don’t wait until there is a problem before you start talking about it.
- Respect one another’s privacy as far as possible – the extent to which you do so will depend on your relationship with her and her maturity
- Share your knowledge about how to keep safe and your expectations for kind and positive behaviour
- Be a good role model in everything from privacy settings to the content of your posts
- Have rules which you both agree to:
- No devices during dinner
- No devices in the bedroom
- Limit the use of devices when you have visitors
- No devices after 9pm – or earlier if your daughter goes early to bed – allow 1 hour of screen-free time before bed
- No pictures of others unless they have agreed
- Aim for a daily limit of 4 hours of computer time, 2 hours on a smartphone and less on online games
- Know how to react to instances of cyberbullying
- Don’t over react, never retaliate: report, block and keep a record
In addition, please read the topical and very helpful blog from Parent Info which is streamed to our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/alfristonspecialschool, where you can also see our Twitter feed and read the school blog.