3 tips on how to set social media screen time boundaries from mental health experts

Published February 9, 2021, 5:22 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

‘Be friendly but with firm discipline.’

Now more than ever, most of us spend more time online and on social media because of the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. Children attend online school while parents are glued to their laptop as part of the work-from-home setup. 


This new normal has domino effect not just in our lifestyle but above all, in our mental health. In terms of psychological impact, a study titled “Psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines (Tee, 2020)” shows that a significant percentage, ranging from 13 to almost 17 percent of respondents have rated the psychological impact of the pandemic, its effects on depressive symptoms, and anxiety levels to be moderate to severe.  Also, the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) noted a significant increase in monthly calls from 80 pre-lockdown to nearly 400 during the quarantine.

Aside from impacts of this new reality spending more time online also affects our well-being, especially the children. With that, mental health experts and panelists in the first-ever Filipino Family Wellbeing Conference, Dr. Kenneth Ross Javate, fellow of Philippine Psychiatric Association and Philippine Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Adelaida Gines, president, Philippine Guidance and Counselling Association, Dr. Rhodora Andrea Concepcion, president, Philippine Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Dr. Sheila Marie “Shake” Hocson, program director, HeadsUp PH, give some tips on how parents can set boundaries and limitations on social media and gadget consumption for the whole family.

1.Explain the right use.
According to Dr. Concepcion, parents should explain to their children the right way of using digital technology. 

“Before the pandemic, we already have numerous addiction cases related to wrong way of using technology,” she says. “Parents should teach their kids that technology should be used first for education, second quality interaction and connection with family members now that we have this physical distancing among each other. Lastly, it is vital for parents to provide diversion activities for their kids at home.” 

2. Walk the talk
After explaining the right usage, it is vital for parents and guardians to set a good example that their kids can emulate. 

“Walk the talk. When it comes to using social media, it should be the parents who practice self-discipline first. Also there should be a set time on how long they can use it daily,” Dr. Gines says. “On top of communicating this, children should have daily routine so that they would not have a dull moment to spend online.” Lastly, 

Oleg Magni via Unsplash / MANILA BULLETIN

3. Quality over quantity
To emphasize the importance of establishing why use social media, Dr. Javate asks everyone to look for quality not quantity. 

“Before pandemic, there were lots of issues about screen time. But now, the fact that learning has been shifted online we are all accessing it through screens. The experts are now focusing more on the quality than the quantity,” he says. “There’s a big difference on using your phone just scrolling on Instagram, exposing yourself to negative images, over dieting, and posts that are focusing on appearance, instead on using it to communicate with your loved ones.” 

With all of these tips, Dr. Hocson remind parents “to be friendly but with firm discipline.” All these doctors are giving more free mental health tips and advice on the upcoming Filipino Family Wellbeing Conference with the theme “Pagsulong ng Pamilyang Pilipino sa Panahon ng Pagbabago” this Feb. 12-13.

Headed by Unilab Foundation and HeadsUp PH, this virtual event is free. Just simply register here