Screentime and Boredom Busters

June 3, 2020

Our team of experts at The Wise Family have put their heads together on how to manage screentime and offer some insight on boredom busters. Many families are still sheltering in place as the country slowly opens back up to a new normal. Kids are winding down their distance learning studies and sliding into summer. Many camps are canceled, so how do we manage the draw of screentime and the incessant “I’m bored” statements?

Kasey Cain, Licensed Professional Counselor

By now you may have seen a plethora of posts on social media about ways to keep your kids from repeating the dreaded “I’m bored!” There are games, art projects, scavenger hunts, nature walks, etc. Now, more than ever, people are craving connection and the safest way to contact and interact with friends right now is virtually.

My amazing colleagues are giving you excellent advice for managing screen time and I wanted to share a way to use the screens to your advantage. Have your kids and their friends do an interactive virtual escape room. Companies are offering free and paid for options. These games encourage participants to cooperate and problem solve while keeping your child and friends separate yet connected. It’s like magic. That must be why my personal favorite one is the Harry Potter Virtual Escape Room, a set of 12 Harry Potter themed puzzles for the witches and wizards in your life.

Muggles are free to join in on the fun too.

Amanda Beyland, Therapist for The Wise Family

It seems that technology is required for almost everything these days, with virtual schooling, working from home, using FaceTime to stay connected to friends and family, reading eBooks, teletherapy, and even virtual sports practices! The “screen time” rules in most houses are probably looking very different right now as screens are allowing us to stay connected, entertained, and informed.

It can be hard to pull kids (and adults) away from the screens that we depend on for so much! Instead of worrying too much about the amount of time spent in front of the screen, try to shift the focus onto the quality of the things we are using our screens for. There are tons of great resources online from cooking lessons and drawing lessons to virtual museum tours or books being read aloud. Screens are also being used for keeping in touch with loved ones, learning a new workout routine, or spending time as a family watching a movie or learning a new recipe.

While I know a lot of families are using more screen time, I have also heard about plenty of family bike rides, endless new craft ideas, and long-lasting game nights.

Dr. Dominique Adkins, Therapist for The Wise Family

As we continue to adjust during this time of all being present at home, it is important to consider how to balance our use of technology. I encourage parents, teens, and young adults to consider their intentions for technology during this time at home. It is important to remember technology limits will be expanded during this when it is the primary tool for learning and social connection. The key is making the use of technology purposeful, meaningful, and fun. Local arts and museums are providing virtual tours and concerts. The Kennedy Center is offering Couch Concerts that include live and past performances streamed to you!

Additionally, while many of our days are spent on zoom or the computer we must ensure there is also a time to unplug and be present. I encourage all ages to allow for at least 30 minutes each morning before picking up the phone or getting on the computer to incorporate a mindful practice and set an intention for each day. Then at night allow for another 30 minutes without the phone to unwind and be present. During this time notice how you are feeling and practice a moment of gratitude. These mindful moments help to balance out our technology filled days and keep each of us grounded.

Dorri C. Scott, MSW, Resident Family Therapist and Parent Coach in Northern Virginia 

Flooded with technology, parents ask, “is too much screen time an epidemic?” Teens and kids today spend an average of more than 7 hours a day looking at a screen. From computers to TV, phones to IPads and other devices our young people are inundated with technology.

It is ever changing.  And, unfortunately the more time spent on the device, less time is spent with family, friends, activities and school work. Whatever happened with just having old fashioned fun?

Recommended screen time from experts including pediatricians is 2 hrs daily. For children 2-5 years old the recommended limit is less than 2 hours. Recognizing the pandemic, parents are again forced to take on new creative ways to “entertain” children at home. The answers are not easy. Solutions take planning.

A few things you can do might Include:

  • Set a specified (weekly) no technology time. (Start with 30 minutes)
  • Dinner together is an excellent way to turn off the world.
  • Families may opt to talk about the day’s events, catch up on news and other priorities set by the family.
  • Plan a regular family exercise time (biking, walks or play outside)
  • Set up play dates with a no screen time for younger children
  • When local libraries open (post pandemic) college prep students can search for colleges, study for SAT and younger children can enjoy story time.

Ultimately, be creative, mindful and set clear boundaries with expectations for screen time. Never lose sight, parents have the power. Too much screen time inhibits growth, creativity and limits life learning. Use common sense. Be wise.

Rebecca Staines, Licensed Professional Counselor

Now more than ever before, parents are faced with the difficult question of how much screen time is too much? Given the current circumstances, screen time has certainly increased as a way for kids to maintain their education, stay in touch with friends, and be entertained. Even still, it is important to create some boundaries with screen use and foster other creative ways to battle boredom.

Any activity that involves the whole family, physical exercise, and the great outdoors is a perfect place to start. Consider growing a family garden, and on those rainy days have a family board game night. Other options could be going for a drive with your teenager and exploring pretty neighborhoods while singing along to your child’s favorite music artist. Driving can be the best time to talk to a teenager because they don’t have to make eye contact when discussing something difficult, but they also don’t have an easy escape when you ask them questions. If these options start to become stale, change things up by participating with your child in their screen time. This can look like playing video games with your kiddo and letting them teach you how to play. Kids may get a kick out of seeing their parents try something new and will also love getting to share what makes the game fun with someone they love.

So, in summary I would say have a timer/set time for screens, consider an outside family project, and if you can’t beat them, join them!

Be Wise and stay safe!