It’s no surprise that kids in the ‘app generation’ live with more distractions than ever before. Interruptions are constant. While they are doing homework, they pick up their phone to use a calculator app and get distracted by a message from a friend:

“Meet me at the courts in an hour?”

According to recent research from Gloria Mark, professor at University of California, it takes up to 20 minutes (on average) for a person to resume focus after distraction. If a child loses 20 minutes of their homework time, they could experience a significant loss of productivity on a daily basis- impacting their overall education.

What does this mean for parents?

First, let’s take a look at our own tech distractions. Have you ever felt stress after receiving a text message alert while you’re working out at the gym? Have you ever received an email from the boss while at the dinner table or even caught yourself looking at Facebook ‘likes’ from your latest post? These distractions have become the norm in today’s age of technology. Technology can distract us from focusing on what matters most. As a parent, we want to make sure that screen time isn’t keeping our kids from being productive—especially with schoolwork. 

Here are some tips for monitoring your child’s screen time.

Put phones away (or turn them off). This is a rule that’s often easier said than done but consistency is very important. One way to do this is to create a tech free basket for kids to put their phone while doing homework. This is great for parents to make sure that their kids are focusing on their homework.

Use parental control software. Parental control software like Net Nanny will restrict internet usage to certain times (set up by the parental admin). This is a great tool for parents while they are preparing dinner, attending to other kids, or just want to make sure their kids aren’t spending too much time online. In addition to managing time online, parents can filter inappropriate material which can easily be found while doing research for their biology project.

Have a family discussion and/or sign a digital contract. There’s no better time than the beginning of the school year to discuss rules for screen time. Include your kids in the discussion by sitting down and going over family values and priorities. Allow your kids to share their ideas as well. A family contract for electronic device usage will help ensure everyone is on the same page. Creating rules and structure will make everyone’s life easier and make your child’s homework time more productive. For a free download click here.

Bridge the Gap. Parents often make the mistake of thinking that technology is the enemy. Instead, why not embrace technology? If we engage in what our kids are doing online, we can learn about what they are doing and also bond with them by showing interest in something they enjoy. Online games such as Minecraft or the latest Holderness family video will provide some laughs, some healthy competition, and family fun. This can also be a great reward after homework is completed.

Be a good role model. Children often learn their tech habits from watching their parents. If you want your children to be more engaged and spend less time on their devices, then it’s essential to practice what you preach. Unplugging is a great way to create intimacy, respect, and harmony among family members but it has to start with parents.

When we step back and look at the big picture and potential long term effects of too much screen time, we can see why managing screen time is so important for the entire family. The good news is that once we create healthy boundaries, we can use it as a useful tool for all family members to be empowered to embrace the gift of technology.