TOWN OF BELOIT—When students reach out to Turner High School health teacher Regan Peters, they can find a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone.
“I love hearing from them and I love talking with them,” Peters said. “It’s a good tool for us to keep our eyes on them and check in how they’re doing mentally, and step in to help as needed.”
As pupils have spent more time online due to distance learning, taking mindful breaks from screen time is even more important, Turner staff members say.
An ongoing virtual event, titled “Screenagers Next Chapter: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience,” aims to address the subject of students’ mental health and the impact of social media.
Community members can watch the video online anytime between Jan. 12 and Jan. 28.
Web links to watch the hour-long virtual presentation are being posted on the Beloit Turner School District’s Facebook page.
Families also have been invited to complete a brief survey after watching the video to enter a contest for free pizza.
This is the second installment of a two-part series called, “Screenagers.” The first video was shown in-person early last year at Turner High School.
Christine Brown, Director of Pupil Services, said the focus of the event will be educating families on the risks of excessive time spent in front of a computer screen.
Mental health needs among students have increased in the past year, Brown said.
“The concern with screen times is even greater now as students are required to be online for the majority of their school day. What we’re trying to get is a balance,” Brown said.
Too much screen time inhibits sleep, alertness, and can affect friendships based on what is seen on social media, Brown said.
Should parents notice any changes in their child’s behavior, Brown said district staff encourage families to reach out with questions.
Because the presentation is available virtually, Turner District Psychologist Sara Ochs said more families might be able to participate than if it was in-person, due to flexible timing.
“I’m hoping that especially with it being an on demand showing it will increase the number of people who will watch this,” Ochs said. “I really want parents to know that it’s okay to take care of themselves, too. I really hope that parents will get some good tips and find some encouragement.”
Ochs said social media can increase a sense of competition among youths, which contributes to anxiety and depression.
In an effort to reduce screen time, Ochs recommends parents and students turn off their phones during certain hours of the day and check their weekly usage reports, while setting goals for reduced use.
Ochs also encourages students and families to get outside or hold a family game night to unwind.
Amidst distance learning, Ochs said staff have emphasized practicing good hygiene and taking breaks throughout the day.
Peters said she regularly takes breaks during class to allow students to stretch, move around and perform breathing exercises.
She encourages her students to voice their thoughts, seek help, journal their goals and feelings and keep track of positive parts of their day.
In an effort to take students’ minds off the desire for likes or responses online, Peters said she tries to remind them they are not alone and can always come forward with questions.
“I don’t think we realize a lot of times how much time teenagers are spending on screens and their phones. We should always be looking to better our health,” Peters said.