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5 youths in a row, all engrossed in their smartphones

7 Back-to-School strategies for Success!

Whether your kids are starting preschool or their senior year of high school, transitioning from summer vacation can be a challenge. Help set-up kids for a successful start by gradually preparing your family for the school year. Setting school-friendly bedtimes, making sure to eat a daily meal as a family, modeling healthy habits, and getting to know the technologies your kids will (and won’t) be using in the classroom and at home, are all simple steps to help kids start school on the right foot!

Here are 8 great school-year strategies for your children’s media use:

a young girl in a school uniform with a book
Take time to visit your child’s school during a time when classes are not in session. If able, arrange a brief walking tour to check out a classroom, cubby or locker area, the cafeteria, and the campus grounds. Ask an administrator to go over school policies, such as how to check out a book or e-book from the library, and what school-related content can and cannot be shared on social media.
Some schools may be tech-free, while others encourage students to use their phones to complete work and collaborate with classmates. Make sure your children know what is expected of them – everything from what they can bring to school to the rules for the technologies they are given, such as school-issued tablets and laptops.
Keep the lines of communication open between you and your children’s teachers, and check in whenever you have concerns. Ask them about how your children are doing in their classrooms, both academically and socially. When it comes to technology, make sure your children are using devices, apps, and programs the way their teachers intend them to – as tools to help their learning. Knowing the goals teachers set for the school year, and their plan for helping students reach these goals, can help you better support your children’s schoolwork and tech use at home.
Research shows that when children and teens multitask with media (watching videos, chatting on social media, surfing the web, etc.) while doing homework, it takes them longer to finish and the quality of their work suffers. Help your kids stay focused by having them complete homework in a common room, such as the kitchen, where you can monitor their media use and help them stay on task.
Research shows that when kids have media in their bedrooms, they are more likely to be overweight, have sleep problems, and do poorly in school. Research also shows 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. Start healthy habits now by removing all electronic media from your child or teen’s bedroom, and set up a charging station for devices, such as smartphones and tablets, in a common room or your bedroom to charge overnight. This can help you monitor your child’s media use and ensure that it does not interfere with her sleep.
During the summer, schedules are often relaxed, including routines and rules for how children and teens use media. However, when it’s time to head back to school, you may want to create guidelines about how much media your kids can use on school nights vs. weekends. For example, you may decide that your children can use entertainment media, such as TV and video games, during the weekends but not during the week, or you may decide to designate screen-free times using a media plan.
Encourage your children to be involved in a variety of different activities such as sports, arts, and other hobby clubs and/or afterschool programs. The more time they spend learning the trombone, Shakespearian acting, Scouts, or field hockey, the less time they’ll have to turn to media for entertainment. Scheduling a few afterschool activities a week can also help keep your children socially engaged and active. Remember to keep extracurricular activities balanced so that children and teens are not over-scheduled and still have plenty of downtime.
Model the behaviors you want your child or teen to learn and adopt when it comes to their own media use. Be aware of the media you are engaging in, especially when your child is present. Actions often speak louder than words, so avoid multitasking with media, using media before you go to bed, and checking your phone during family mealtimes. Media can be educational and fun, but they cannot replace the learning that takes place through direct parent and child interaction.