Back-to-School…are you ready?


Although getting children and teens back into a school schedule can be difficult, the transition from the summer to the school year can provide a good opportunity for making changes in your home, adjusting routines, and determining rules and setting goals for the upcoming school year. Kids’ schedules are already changing dramatically during this time, so altering their media use environment may be easier to do now than at other times of the year. Here are several changes you can make with your children before school begins that can help them manage their media use throughout the school year:

  • Change where media are used: Research has shown that when kids have media in their bedrooms, they are more likely to be overweight, to have sleep problems, and to do poorly in school. Research has also shown that kids with computers and Internet access in their rooms sleep less and are more likely to use the internet in unsafe or unhealthy ways. Consider starting the school year by removing TVs, computers, and video game systems from children’s bedrooms, and make sure that all other Internet-connected devices such as tablets and smartphones are left in a common room or your bedroom to charge overnight. By keeping these electronics in a common area, parents can monitor their use (both for school and for entertainment) much more easily and be aware of how much media their children are using and whether the content is developmentally appropriate.
  • Create weeknight vs. weekend rules: During the summer, schedules become relaxed and parents often aren’t as strict about what happens on weeknights. But when it’s time to head back to school, parents may want to create guidelines about how much media their kids can use on school nights vs. on the weekends. For example, parents might decide that children can use entertainment screen media during the weekends but not during the week, or they might limit all entertainment media use to one hour on school nights. On the weekends, kids may be allowed to use media more liberally.
  • Encourage extracurricular activities: If you are worried about how much media your kids use, encourage them to become involved in after-school activities or programs. The more time they spend at piano lessons, scouts, or sports practice, the less time they’ll have to turn to media to entertain themselves. By the time kids have attended to all of their primary responsibilities such as doing homework, chores, play, and eating dinner with family, they may not have much time left to use entertainment media. Remember to keep extracurricular activities balanced so that children and teens are not overscheduled and still have plenty of down-time. Scheduling a few after-school activities a week can help keep your children socially engaged, active, and can prevent extensive media use without wearing them out too much.


During the School Year


Today’s schools often utilize a variety of media and devices to teach children and teens. From tablets and smartboards to calculators and smartphones, kids are often required to learn and spend time with media and technology both in and out of the classroom. Subsequently, it is important to understand the relationship between children’s media use and what is required of them for school. Many computer programs, software, apps, and devices are designed to help children and teens learn and interact with a variety of information. Although many of these programs and devices are relatively new, research has shown that a lot of them can be effective teaching tools, while others can contribute to distraction and deter from the lesson.




*This article appeared recently on the Center for Media and Child Health