How do you manage your teen’s internet usage when they attend an online high school? Your child sits at their computer, not communicating with you, with their eyes glued to the screen, seemingly all day. You’re not sure where their school time begins or ends. You begin to worry that their interaction with electronic devices is becoming too much, especially when the respond to your conversation with a shrug. With kids being advanced technology users, and adept at various apps and programs that parents are unfamiliar with, keeping tabs on your child’s internet and technology usage is harder than ever. This is a true concern for parents whose student is enrolled in an online or e-learning high school.
When the majority your child’s day revolves around staring at a screen to complete assignments it can be difficult to tell what is appropriate technology usage and what is simply a waste of their time. Once their assignments are completed they are typically drawn to social media and video games, further increasing their screen time. By day’s end, most high school students have spent the majority of their time involved in electronic pursuits. The negative effects of over use and over exposure to electronic screens is just one of the fears of many parents. In addition to video game addiction and social bullying the potential for harm increases with increased exposure to technology. But how much is too much? How do parents help children learn to set healthy limits of technology use?
Put a Cap on it: It is important for families to set aside certain times of the day to be technology free. By instituting phone-free family activity and encouraging all members of the family to set aside their devices you can help to alleviate some of the anxiety and push-back associated with stepping away from technology. Make your dinner table a place of conversation instead of texting, remove devices from your sleeping spaces and forbid technology use after a certain time of day. In this way you can refocus attention back to the activity at hand.
You Decide How Much is too Much: When your student has completed their required school work it is the parents’ responsibility to decide how much technology use beyond school work is allowed. Make a decision that works best for your family and stick to your guns. Some families allows a certain number of minutes per day for recreational technology use, other families make their children earn “screen time” minutes through chores or other activities. Just make sure the expectation is clearly set and followed by everyone. Children are more likely to willingly abide by limits set if they apply to everyone equally.
Encourage Alternatives: Tablets, televisions and smart phones are easy ways to eliminate boredom. Long gone are the days when a child needs to think up a game to play, when with the flip of a switch they can play an electronic game, chat with far away friends or watch silly YouTube videos. In order to reverse this mindset you’ll need to provide, suggest and encourage other options. When your student has other responsibilities and activities to capture their attention, they will be more likely to partake in those activities and ignore their devices. Encourage your child to share their homework with you, play games together and participate in creative thinking and artistic activities together. Arts and crafts or puzzle games can encourage students to think outside-the-box and take an active interest in something other than their electronic devices. Consider completing family chores together, taking a walk, or starting a building or organizing project.
After School Jobs: High school students are at the appropriate age to encourage them to seek out after school employment. Aside from earning extra money and learning responsibility, and after school job has the added benefit in that most employers will discourage or prohibit time on smartphones during work hours.
Participate in activities. If your student is enrolled in an online schoolit is really important to get your kids involved in sports, in clubs, or other social activities such as at church or your local library. While active movement is important for all children, it's particularly necessary for online school students, who tend to have fewer opportunities to move around than students at traditional brick and mortar schools. Try to find unique activities that align with your students’ interests and encourage a variety of interaction with others. If clubs and sports aren’t the kinds of things your child enjoys you could try pursuing activities as a family instead. Picnics, hikes and trips to the neighborhood swimming pool are good alternatives to get your child moving and out of the house. Because your student has the flexibility in his schedule of attending an online school, you should be able to adapt the day to include some activity and movement, much like a traditional PE class would.
Since online high school truly requires your child to spend a great deal more time with a screen than children who attend a more traditional school you will need to play an active role in managing your child’s screen time. It can be a challenge to balance limiting screen time and also allowing your child the freedom to complete assignments on time. You don’t want your student to feel like you are managing their decisions but you do want to make sure they are making healthy and safe choices regarding the use of their electronic devices. Work as a family to figure out what system works best for you.