The Time is Now!

Arlene Pellicane’s article in the June 3, 2020 edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled “Save Your Kids From Covid’s Digital Deluge” caught my attention. Ms. Pellicane discusses the impact of screen use as we begin to come out of the Covid-19 lockdowns.

“Parents used to feel guilty when our children overused phones and tablets. But during Covid-19, experts gave us a pass….Children were already obsessed with screen time before the pandemic. I fear what they’ll be like after.” I can relate. When the Weekly Screen Time Report appears on my phone (ironically, a screen to report my screen use) I cringe-it’s far higher than pre-Covid-19. Granted, some of it involves professional and social meetings that would previously have been held in person. But I know that’s only a fraction of the heightened activity. Pellicane states, “Habits are being ingrained.”

Habits tend to be vague, singularly focused and often without defined outcomes and/or methods to achieve the outcome. They are things we do without much contemplation, like getting dressed or eating lunch. Bad habits are most often something we fall into without intent. Unfortunately, when it comes to bad habits with screens, the addictive aspects of the screen activities are well understood and intentionally created to hook us in. Falling out of these bad screen habits will require intention. We need to move out of our vague, ill-defined actions into more thoughtful activities that involve a plan for success. Unfortunately, every aspect of this requires high-level executive functions, something many of our children have yet to acquire. They will need help.

“We want our children to feel good, and that’s why we often go easy on them. But maybe they’ll feel better if we require them to do good…When children take responsibility, their self-esteem improves” continues Pellicane. {Italics my addition} This summer provides a rare opportunity to teach kids practical life skills, for example, cooking, money management, changing a tire, sewing on a button, tending a garden and the list goes on. It’s easy to get caught up in the missed academic opportunities, but those will be more easily remedied if students return to school having gotten fresh air, having seen practical applications to what they have already learned in class and not being glassy eyed from continual screen activity. It takes time, effort and energy to pull the plug on electronic entertainment but this opportunity is ripe and the rewards will be evident.