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Parents struggle to find balance between screen time at home and school

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Tablets, cell phones, TV.

So many parents are struggling to figure out just how much screen time their child should get. But even if you're setting limits at home, are you taking into account all of the screen time your child gets at school?

Many schools are incorporating technology to teach and test your kids. So much so, Indianapolis mom Jeanine Bobenmoyer specifically chose a school for her two kids that wasn't focused on technology.

"There’s a lot more personal interaction in the classroom," she said.

At home, her kids don't own any devices and screen time is limited to about an hour of TV after dinner.

"We just don't have the time for screen time."

Across town, Micah Smith is raising her four kids very differently.

"They have their personal tablets. They have play stations."

Micah allows her kids to choose how much time they want to spend in front of a screen. But they must earn what she calls "Smith Kid Bucks" by doing chores around the house. Then they can spend those bucks on activities like screen time.

"Playstation? Three Smith Kid Bucks. Tablets? Three Smith Kid Bucks," she explained. "They get a choice but it's within the parameters we've set."

But with kids getting screen time at school these days, many moms admit, the struggle to find a balance is real.

"Trying to find that perfect balance? It's a constant battle!" said Bobenmoyer.

According to a recent report by Common Sense Media, kids 8 and younger spend an average 2 hours and 19 minutes a day staring at a screen. 48 minutes of that is on a mobile device.

"It's a form of multitasking that is almost an overload on what the brain can take in," said Lori Desautels, Assistant Professor at Butler University.

Desautels believes human interaction is always better than digital when it comes to kids learning.

"There's a tone of voice that's read, facial expression is read, body language is read," she explained. But she also knows technology is here to stay and if it's used the right way, it can be a great tool for educators.

At Shortridge High School, Michael Gawdzik's classroom is a cell phone free zone. While the school embraces laptops and phones in class, Gawdzick tells his students to put their phones away.

"I found myself having to repeat a lot of things,” he explained. "It just really disengages them and it kind of derails their thought process and critical thinking."

His kids agreed, telling us they paid attention more when their phone was taken away.

So if your kids are getting screen time at school, Desautels recommends parents especially moderate screen time at home.

For adolescents, she suggests 30 minutes chunks followed by breaks.

"I would make sure that those pieces are short enough that afterwards there is some movement, there's another activity."

For elementary aged kids, who are still developing important skills, Desautels said to break the screen time down to 10 minute chunks and spend that screen time together so parents are modeling the behavior they want their kids to follow.

Desautels said she understands parents will manage screen time the way they think it works best for their family. She knows some parents work multiple jobs and don't have a lot of leisure time. What matters, she said, is that they are paying attention to how that screen time is affecting their kids

"I am concerned about those children who go home from school and there is not a caregiver there to set boundaries and set limits," said Desautels.

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