Lesson Plan Guide: Recognize, Record, And Reduce Screen Time

By Matt Andrews

Student Paths Outcomes and Standards for this Step:

Students identify personal strengths and weaknesses that include skills and abilities; interests, passions and personality; and what they need to do to fulfill their goals for education, career, and life.

Common Core Standards Addressed:


Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

Goal: Students how to manage time with computers, tablets, smartphones, and technology so that they may prioritize screen time to prepare for college and careers. The target students are 9th to 12th graders with the intention of this lesson to reach parents and families.

Invite the whole family to monitor the use of computers, television, smartphones, videos, and media technology. Self-regulation of behavior while using technology and media is an essential skill for college and career readiness.

Materials: “Top Five Reasons to Limit Your Screen Time” from Student Paths

Optional to use the NPR Article, TED Talk, Pew Studies

Paper and Pencil for Student Logs

White Board, Big Paper, Projector

Spreadsheet on Computer, such as Excel

General Procedure of Lessons: The entire lesson is designed to take place throughout a month; and is divided into 3 parts that serve as an intervention to optimize student use of technology.

  • Part 1 has students read an article to help define various uses of technology and screen time. Students are assigned to count every hour in the day and what technology is being used.
  • Part 2 takes place a few weeks later when the class counts all the hours and uses of technology. Students are assigned to reduce technology use to fully engage in service to the community.
  • Part 3 asks students to reflect on reducing negative uses of technology and helps students appreciate the connections and real-life service to people in the community.

Part 1 – Recognize and Record Your Use of Technology

Read and Discuss (20-30 Minutes):

As a whole class, read the article, “Top Five Reasons to Limit Your Screen Time.” Either project this article on a big screen for students to view or distribute a copy to every student.

Take time to read aloud and pause after each paragraph to discuss the information provided. This article references research and numbers to argue that students should limit their screen time. Facilitate a discussion that allows students to fully consider both positive and negative impacts of technology use on our health and well-being.

Encourage students to react and build upon one another’s ideas. Build curiosity in what may be the best way to use technology and how screen time could be related to physical fitness, sleep, emotional growth, brain development, eye-strain, and other concerns that may arise during discussion. This discussion should lead to the need to monitor our own use of technology and screen time.

Conclude this reading and discussion with the idea of an App that monitors screen time. Reference an App such as Moment, featured in an NPR article that is able to monitor how much time is spent on a smartphone.


Plan and Organize to Record Time on Technology (10-20 minutes):

Teachers, build upon both the excitement and concern students have about overuse and privacy with technology. Explain that one app today is unlikely to monitor all behavior with technology, so students need to self-monitor their own use. Ask students:

How can you monitor and record your own technology use?

Teachers may want to share a personal experience. Allow each student to suggest ideas and eventually determine the best way to record his use of technology; and then explain that every student is going to record use of technology and screen time over the next month.

The teacher will determine the best way for each student to individually record the use of technology.

A paper and pencil log that is kept in the classroom works great! More importantly, encourage students to monitor and record use of technology throughout the next month. Every student needs a log, so a paper pencil log may be kept in the classroom while students have another log on their smartphone or computer at home.

Teachers should provide students 5 minutes of class, every day, to record their daily use of technology and time spent in front of a computer. Documenting specific time of use is the most important record for this assignment, and logs with specific details that include brief reviews of software are beneficial for future class discussions.

Students can log, “3 to 7PM on computer,” and be more specific, “3-6 specific cartoon and YouTube pranks, 6-7:30 wrote English paper while listening to music on Pandora.” The students will count total hours at the end of the month, and discuss productive and healthy uses of media technology.

This primary assignment is for students to keep a personal log of time spent with technology, studying and writing papers on the computer, connecting with friends on social media, listening to I-Tunes, watching You Tube, and reflect upon the specific uses students have for technology. Most important, everyday, students need to log the amount of hours spent with technology.

Part 2 - Count All Hours Spent with Technology

After 2-4 weeks of recording technology use in a daily log, schedule time for each student and the whole class to count hours on technology. The goal of Part 2 is to understand how much time is spent with technology every day and throughout the week.

Count Logs and Create Spreadsheet (10-30 minutes):

The point of the first part of this lesson is to engage students in the counting and public conversation about the use of technology. The 3 stages may be shortened or extended to deepen mathematical reasoning about quantifying time and surveying populations. The short version is a teacher-led counting of total hours spent on technology during the research period. Below are suggestions to include students in the deeper understanding on how we use and monitor the use of technology.

First, have every student record a personal count of technology use over the time period. Ideal is for students to record day, time, specific technology, website, and content of every day on a piece of paper; however, the point of the lesson is to help students monitor their technology use.

Technology is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to generalize findings from studies of media use 10 years ago. Now is the time for each student to spend 5-10 minutes recording and quantifying the hours spent using technology with ears listening or eyes on the screen.

Ask for 2 student volunteers to lead in the “private collecting” of hours on technology. Write a few specific questions for every student to answer on the sheet of paper. The idea is for students to ask and answer their own questions about technology use. One question should be: How many total hours did you spend using technology from specific TIME and DATE to DATE?

Other questions could be about most watched videos or listened-to music, and even better software to study or websites with useful information to get a job, prepare for a career or go to college. The first 2 volunteers assign specific questions for every student to answer in relation to the logs recording use of technology.

Second, ask for two more volunteers to help manage the “public counting” from the logs. The 4 volunteers need to organize the class into 2 groups to count and recount (verify) the information collected in the first stage.

Two volunteers will record the information on the front board, paper, computer, or projector while the other two volunteers lead the class in counting the votes. Divide the students into two groups, a discussion leader and public recorder assigned to each group. Divide the papers that were collected into two, even piles, and assign each group to count the number of hours students spent using technology.

The short way is to have the teacher ask and count total hours in order to share this with the class. The extended lesson is to engage students further in the monitoring of technology use, privacy, and the dangers of too much time plugged into the screen.

If the class is divided into two groups, challenge them to who can be more accurate, private, and enlightening with the data they were given. Build up the value of both accuracy and privacy with recognition that behavior on smartphones is monitored by the technology companies, this class activity is rather old-fashioned and not nearly as invasive or efficient as a web cookie that tells companies every website a student has ever visited.

For this part, provide the students 5 minutes to count the data, and insist upon accuracy. Then, have the students swap records and recount the data to check for accuracy. This part should conclude with a few students realizing the great advantage of using a spreadsheet, such as Excel to record, organize, and analyze data.

Third, suggest that using a spreadsheet on the computer is a great way to record and manage this information. Ask for two student volunteers to count and record this information in the spreadsheet. Allow these three parts to flow naturally as students use paper pencil and white boards to count and organize data.

Eventually, recognize the importance of using the spreadsheet. There is no need for three separate parts, simply assign additional students to specific tasks while the need arises. The ideal class activity involves a smooth flow of wonder and argument over how to best count and monitor technology use.

Here is a link to Pew Research on how teens use the Internet for reference; this is a starting point to find many other studies students and teachers may find interesting.


Watch and Discuss (20 -60 minutes):

A second activity to inspire students to use technology wisely is to watch and read a TED Talk by Sherry Turkle, “Connected, but Alone.”


Follow along with the transcript.


Many teachers find this talk a great way to spark further conversation about the benefits and dangers of technology use. Teachers may want to show a short clip and use the transcript to start a further discussion.

The goal of watching and discussing this video is to help students understand the productive, beneficial uses of technology and the potential, negative consequences of too much time plugged-in. Inspire students to make connections in the real world, it is not that technology can never be used, but we must learn to regulate the use of technology so that we can find mentors and leaders in the community that will help each one of us along our own student path.

Assignment to Unplug and Do Something that Matters (2 minutes):
The assignment and challenge for students is to unplug from technology in order to make genuine connections with and contribute to help other people that are important in their life. Instead of using technology to look for cool stuff, and watch age-relevant media; unplug and turn off all technology to connect with a community leader, potential mentor, and help contribute something to the greater good of the community.

Invite them to include their family and friends with the message for students: Unplug and do something that matters!

Part 3: Reflect on technology use and efforts to do something that matters.

Discussion (20-30 minutes):

Refer to the article, “Top Five Reasons to Limit Your Screen Time” from Student Paths, and then instruct students to write an answer to 3 questions:

  1. What uses of technology can be productive, healthy, and/or beneficial to us
  2. What are some uses of technology that we are probably best to avoid?
  3. What is something that I learned when I unplugged and did something that mattered?

Many students will find it difficult to “do something that matters,” but asking vague questions allows students to reflect upon and share things that matter in their own lives.

Guide the class through a discussion of these three questions, so that the class may reflect upon the benefits and risks of technology use. The purpose of this lesson and discussion is to help students break habits of self-absorbed, procrastinating, unhealthy uses of technology as they try to build deeper connections to mentors and community leaders in the real world. Advanced students will be able to use technology to do things that are important in the community to mentors and leaders.

Close with Written Reflection (5 minutes):
Instruct students to write in a journal or paper a list of ideas for community service. The general idea is that it should be common sense that time playing a recreational sport is better for physical fitness than watching videos on tablet; however, we push our common sense further to understand that technology makes certain kinds of communication simple, and real-life interactions with other people during community service are beneficial to our social health and well-being.

Too many students are obese, depressed, and alone. List all the ideas for students to step away from technology in order to have genuine interactions solving problems for real people.


Top Five Reasons to Limit Your Screen Time

About the Author

Matt Andrews