Yesterday a parent at a workshop expressed concern about the amount of time his grade 9 daughter was spending online – between school, homework and free time online, he felt like she is spending her whole day looking at screens. This is not the first time I’ve heard a parent share these kinds of concerns and I usually have a standard list of suggestions to offer, but yesterday I thought of something a little different…

For the last few weeks I’ve been keeping a journal, which I haven’t done since middle school, but am finding it really useful. Now that I have a very different working environment, where essentially I’m in charge of my own time and can make my own choices about what I do each day, I’ve been noticing that I need to prioritize tasks, manage my time, and reflect on accomplishments a little bit differently. So I’ve been starting each day, after a short mediation, with a structured journal entry. Even though it seems like such an simple obvious task, I’ve been surprised by how much I’m noticing about my days just by keeping track of what I’m doing and how I feel about it.

So, yesterday when this parent asked about his daughter, I immediately connected to my own journaling experience, and suggested that she keep track of the following items for the next week or two to see how she feels:

  • minutes/hours of time she spends looking at a screen at school
  • minutes/hours of time she spends looking at a screen home for school-related tasks
  • minutes/hours of time she spends looking at a screen at home for social or free time
  • what time she goes to bed
  • how often she wakes up during the night
  • how well she sleeps
  • how she feels in the morning when she wakes up
  • how she feels during the day

Once she has some accurate data about the amount of time she is actually spending looking at a screen (because her dad’s perceptions may not be accurate anyway) and if/how her screen time is affecting other aspects of her life, I suggested that they create an agreement about the amount of screen time that would work best for her.

I’m not sure why I had never considered this idea before, but as I was talking about it with the parent, I realized this could be really helpful because:

  • it’s simple, easy and quick to do – and provides actual data for them to discuss (rather than just assumptions or perceptions),
  • it helps the student make the connection between her choices during the day and her body’s reaction at night or the next day – it’s hard enough for me as an adult to see those connections and we expect students to be able to make them on their own without any data or time for reflection,
  • in the end, it might actually become its own solution, just like a food journal, because once she starts writing the hours/minutes down she may begin to change her habits automatically.

Have you ever suggested journaling as a solution process for setting appropriate screen time limits? How did it go?

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