TranslateThe Hub

Screen Time During the Pandemic: How Much Is Too Much?

Photo of Seattle Academy Parent Education Event Speaker Emily Cherkin April 2021

All-School Parent Education Event, “Techintentionality” Speaker Emily Cherkin MA Ed.

Emily Cherkin MA Ed. is not concerned with a little tech-use; she is concerned with a lot of tech-use. This is the premise of the presentation she gave to Seattle Academy’s Parent Education group last month. 

For many, the concept of limiting screen use is daunting. School requires a screen, as does connecting with family across the nation, as does ordering dinner, and completing a health questionnaire — the list goes on and on. Tech has become a staple in our student’s lives, especially this past year, as classrooms and social hangs have moved online. The frequency of screen time has exploded. “In the beginning [of the pandemic], tech was our lifeboat. But a lifeboat is not long-term housing,” says Emily. Tech use requires parental and professional guidance, or should require it, as households contend with how much technology, or how little, their kids should engage with. 

Emily was a 7th-grade English teacher at Seattle Academy for 10 years and taught a curriculum based on screen time, media literacy, and bullying. She is a parent herself and now an internationally recognized consultant helping families and schools navigate the frequency of screen time. 

 97% of SAAS parents say that their student’s screen use is more than they’d like or way too much

Emily is not anti-tech, as she explains it. She is tech-intentional. In a recent survey of SAAS parents, 97% of SAAS parents say that their students’ screen use is more than they’d like or way too much. Emily argues that it is unfair to ask our kids to regulate screen use themselves because their impulse control is still forming. This is an arena that parents need to engage with and, in weighing their family’s values and rules, establish tech boundaries for their kids.

Why can’t we expect our kids to self-regulate their use of technology? Emily explains that there is a persuasive design to modern technology: it is a combination of technology and psychology to change human behavior. There is a hormonal surge that we experience when we interact with technology. This physical reaction, combined with the psychology of intermittent variable rewards, creates a unique dopamine effect. “Our phones are like slot machines,” says Emily. “We win at intermittent, irregular intervals. They keep us coming back, because we might get the next dopamine hit.” The long and short: the increase in screen use is impacting us. 

How much should parents limit screen time is the question at hand. And then, how in the world do parents do so when screens are a necessity as well as a perk?. This is the battle parents are confronted with. This is also the why behind limiting screen time: it has an effect, and that effect is something we are still studying and understanding as a society.In Emily’s presentation, she expands on actions parents can take to help discuss screen time with their children and how to establish boundaries around this screen use. What helps: transparency.

Emily emphasizes that this conversation is not easy. “If your kids are rolling their eyes at you, you know you are doing something right,” she contends. 

We cannot expect them to manage screen time on their own. Emily’s main theme is that we can be intentional in our screen use. “Be the mentor; not the monitor. Take small steps, one at a time. Meet kids where they are.” 

For more information on Emily Cherkin and her business, visit her website or check out her appearance on NBC’s TODAY Show. 

You can find more meetings and presentations by the Parent Education group by checking out their calendar on the Seattle Academy website.