Asking for a friend: Help! How do I convince my parents I can balance my studies with my screen time?

  • It isn’t easy to persuade your mum or dad to give you a break when you’ve failed an exam, but we have tips on how to show that you can be responsible with your video games, phone or computer
  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers, and our team of clinical psychologists give advice and resources you can turn to
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Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us.

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google form. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

Hi Friend
I feel really hurt when my parents yell at me for using my electronics, which they blame for affecting my academic results. But compared to my friends, I actually use my electronics much less and spend much less time playing video games. Just because I failed one exam does not mean that I have failed in life. I understand studying is important, but how can I tell my parents to allow me a bit more leisure time?
Less Scream Time, More Screen Time

You deserve a break from studying, and we have some tips on how you can convince your parents

Dear Less Scream Time

It sounds like you feel misunderstood by your parents. As electronic devices have become part of everyday life for most people, it has also caused an unending struggle between parents and children.

Like most things, electronics can be good and bad for you. Especially in a pandemic when you may not see your friends very often, playing games or chatting with them online can be important for mental health.

A balanced lifestyle can include playing video games and using electronic devices, but should also include physical exercise, outdoor activities and meetings with friends (if it is safe to do so).

Why playing video games is good for your well-being

If you feel that your electronics usage is under control, we have a few tips about how to approach your parents. While it is fair to feel your screen time is much less compared to your friends, it may be more useful to figure out for yourself how much time is healthy to spend on your devices.

Write down your weekly schedule, accounting for how much time you need to study and what time you need to sleep every night (most teens should aim for eight to 10 hours per night).

Find times to relax after you have studied for exams and submitted assignments. Some days, you might only have 15 minutes of free time, but maybe on the weekends, you can have a larger chunk of time to relax with your devices.

Why you’re procrastinating more during the pandemic – and what to do about it

Find an appropriate time to talk to your parents, and avoid exchanging fire when they are yelling. Listen to their concerns, and show them how you’ve learned from your failed exam and what you will do differently when revising for the next one.

Discuss why using electronics is important to you and how taking a break helps you relieve stress. Invite them to play a video game with you to understand why you enjoy them.

Explain how you will balance your screen time with your studies, and be ready to compromise. Together, outline fair and realistic expectations.

For example, it would be unfair if your parents only allowed you to use your electronic devices once a month. But it would be unrealistic if you promised to finish your work in 15 minutes every day.

How to talk to adults 101

Following this mutual agreement will prove to your parents that you have self-control, and build their confidence in your ability to manage your time.

It’s okay if you get distracted and don’t follow the schedule perfectly. But you might need to rethink your habits if you often stay up all night because you can’t tear yourself away from a game, or struggle to focus on studying because you keep checking your phone.

It is alarming if your gaming or internet usage is harming your health, relationships or studies. But remember, there are experienced professionals available to help:

Whatever you do, just make sure you communicate with your parents or with someone you trust. You deserve to take a break from your studies, but make sure that you find a healthy balance in your schedule.

Hope this helps, Friend of a Friend

This was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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