Update from the Dean of Student Life and Wellbeing
One of the strange ironies during our current situation is that some people are reporting that they are actually feeling better connected to others while being physically isolated – growing closer as families around the dinner table, and renewing or strengthening friendships through numerous virtual platforms. Indeed, I suspect that many adults have a new-found appreciation for social technologies that allow us to connect with our friends online. I know I look forward to online social gatherings each week, ones that no doubt enhance my personal wellbeing. Of course, our kids have long since recognized the benefits of social platforms and the value of virtual connection with friends.
Prior to our current circumstance, if your household is anything like mine, many battles have been waged between parent and child over the amount of time spent chatting with friends on Instagram, SnapChat or TikTok. Now however, laptops, tablets and cell phones have become essential learning tools for online classes, and also serve as the primary way of maintaining critical relationships with peers. With all the research from recent years that speaks to the detrimental effects of too much time spent in the virtual realm, how do we now reconcile the necessity for increased screen time, for both work and play?
I recently read a very relevant article from the Washington Post titled: ‘Screen Time’ has gone from sin to survival tool. In it, a number of leading experts and psychologists offer advice on how we might begin to address the question above. Dr. Jean Twenge, author of the book “IGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” is quoted in the article. Twenge, who spoke to parents at a UCC event in 2018, recognizes that home isolation has had significant impact on social needs and offers some updated advice:
“Spending an hour or two a day with devices during leisure time doesn’t seem to be harmful for mental health…[I would] give more leeway for video chat, because that is the closest we can come to in-person social interaction.”
Although advocating for more leniency with our kids, Twenge is cautious about the lack of existing data regarding the impact of increased screen time on mental health, and does recommend that parents set firm guidelines for online social engagement.
I realize that navigating the matter of screen time is challenging even in the best of times, but during these highly unusual circumstances, I think following Twenge’s advice makes sense. At the very least, in doing so, as parents we may win some favour with the younger folks in our households – something all of us could use at this time.
This week’s programming at both the Prep and Upper schools focuses on the benefits of positive emotion. The weekly wellbeing challenge for Year 6 and Year 7 boys asks them to create a poster or video based on good news stories, like those showcased on actor John Krasinski’s Youtube Show.
Upper School boys enjoyed watching some funny clips online and discussed the health benefits of laughter. Trying to maintain some levity through this difficult time is key to wellbeing; I’d encourage you to connect with your son about the ways through which he is finding humour or positivity in his life right now.
Thanks for reading,