How much Screen Time is Just Right for an Online Student?

happy young family wathching flat tv at modern home indoor

Is too much screen time a concern for online students?
We live in an age of amazing technological breakthroughs. Your mobile phone could probably replace a half-dozen devices around your home – if it hasn’t already.

This does mean, however, that you spend a lot of time absorbing information from screens – and so do your kids. When your child attends an online school, you may begin to wonder if your daughter or son is spending too much time staring at their devices.

The new reality

Your children love their own cell phones, video games, tablets, laptops, televisions and smart devices just as much as you do. It’s the world we live in, and there’s no going back.

“I think a lot of families have come to the conclusion that screen time is just a reality of life,” says Erica Rhone, head of school at The Keystone School. “It’s something that we all have to deal with.”

At the same time, Ms. Rhone notes that parents can take steps to make sure that their children are interacting with their world in different ways, as well. Keystone, for example, is an online private school that gives students the ability to print out assignments and scan in completed work for review by graders. Students are required to complete hands-on science lab work. Studying for various classes can be done away from the computer.

“It’s really important to have a schedule that builds in breaks” Ms. Rhone says. “Parents and teachers need to know how to appropriately schedule and build in downtime so that students can refocus when they get back to work. And by scheduling it in, not only does your brain get a rest, but your eyes also get a rest from the computer.”

A parent’s role

As a parent, you need to be honest with yourself: how do you feel about your child’s screen time? Do you think it’s an issue? Is it causing problems for you, your child or their peers?

“Technology can play a positive role in everyone’s lives, especially if it is something they’ve learned in school, or connecting with someone to fill a social need,” says Robbye Fox, a certified parenting instructor from Kensington, Maryland. “But parents first need a clear concept of why they are bothered with their kid’s involvement in technology. Bullying, plagiarizing homework, videogames to avoid homework, haven’t done the chores — these are some reasons why technology could be inhibiting home and school life.”

We’ve all read horror stories about what can happen when children are given free and unfettered online access. As a parent, it is your responsibility to be aware of not only how much time your child is spending in front of a screen, but what he or she is doing, too.

“The stakes get higher because what they can do with the inappropriate use,” Ms. Fox says. “Part of it is constant communications about it. There are some ways to monitor social media. For instance, when a kid turns 16 years old, we don’t just hand them the keys to the car. Many precautions are taken, laws and training and incremental steps are in place, because a car can take a life. So can the internet. Parents need to say ‘I love you too much to just hand you the keys and say have a nice drive.’ Even once they get the keys, we still keep an eye on how they drive and how they use the car.”
The solution is communication

Talk to your children about how they are using technology, and listen when they have questions or concerns of their own. As a family, you can set the bar for what is and is not acceptable.

“It’s important to work as a family to set limits about technology in a way that allows a dialogue,” Ms. Fox says. “Using language like ‘Here is my issue, here are my concerns about what’s going on’ and seeing where the conversation goes from there. My kids had frustrations about how WE as parents were using technology, and we would talk about that and try changing our behaviors too. Not all technology is bad.”

Is online education right for your family?

Do you think your child could thrive in a flexible educational environment? Learn more about The Keystone School today.



Back to School!

The beginning of August always signifies the start of a new school year for many families. If you are new to Keystone, welcome aboard. If you are coming back to join us for another year, we are glad to see you again. It also means there is a lot happening at Keystone to prepare for the “start” of a new school year. This involves evaluation and reviews of the surveys and information we have collected from you, our Keystone families. As we prepare for this year, we are excited to be launching a new Keystone Elementary program. This program will support younger students (K-5) with a flexible Keystone model, but will require the daily guidance and support of an at home Learning Coach (parent). We have also reviewed some new elective course offerings and updated AP Courses, prepared to launch a Student Success Course and have developed new Keystone Writing and MLA guidelines, which we are preparing to align with all courses and share out to all students through all courses.
I look forward to helping to support you and your student throughout this year. Please join us for our many webinars throughout the year and encourage your students to join in our Open House week planned for later this fall!

– Erica Rhone, Keystone Head of School

Teacher Appreciation Month

Every May, The Keystone School takes time to recognize our teachers, as part of Teacher Appreciation week. During this time, I take time to reflect on why I became a teacher. I think back to my teachers and those that influenced my choice to enter the world of education. I believe that each student has or can find that one teacher who truly makes a difference. Whether it’s the subject area that helps your student connect, or just the way in which the teacher responds that appeals to your student. I hope that each of our Keystone students are able to find that one teacher here at Keystone who makes a difference in their educational journey. If your student is hesitant to reach out and make connections, please help them to take that step forward. Encourage them to pick a teacher, just one, and share a bit more about themselves. These personal connections can really help your student to feel a deeper connection with our school. The more we know about your students and their educational experiences and challenges, the more we can help to focus our support.
If you and your student have found that one teacher who has made a difference, be sure to take time and thank them for it!

Erica Rhone
Keystone Head of School


AP Courses at Keystone

This month’s theme at Keystone is focused on Advanced Placement.  We think it is important to highlight for Keystone families the opportunities available at Keystone that can help impact their future education pathways.  Students who engage and test for any Advanced Placement courses that are accepted by their colleges or universities give themselves the opportunity to get ahead as a Freshman. However, if an Advanced Placement course through Keystone is not something that would interest your student, you could always consider visiting a local community college and select a course which could be considered for a dual credit opportunity.  More information on dual credits can be found on or through the Student Handbook.   If you are interested in reading more about AP courses, take a look at the April 2016 newsletter, located here.



Resources and Tools at Keystone

Keystone has a number of tools and resources available to both you and your students to help make your educational experience with us a successful one. Take a look at the Resource and Orientation Center and Guidance Services Resource Center in your student’s online classroom and you will find a wealth of information.  You will also find a number of resources at

We take pride in listening to you, as parents, and working to develop resources and tools that you find to be helpful. You will notice that during your time with Keystone, we will ask either you or your student to complete surveys; at the completion of the Strong Start program, at the completion of each course, on a yearly basis through an annual customer satisfaction survey and at various times throughout the year. While I understand that answering these questions may seem repetitive, the questions we are asking are there to help us improve our support for your experience. If completing surveys is not your cup of tea, then feel free to connect with another member of the Keystone staff and let them know you wish to provide some feedback. This feedback allows the Keystone staff to step back and reassess the tools, services and support we are providing and work on making necessary adjustments to make your experience even better.


Looking Back to Move Forward


Looking Back to Move Forward

By Lisa McClure– Keystone Head of School

~Author Unknown

Moving forward in life is a full time job! For Keystone students, putting in the time needed to meet their course due dates, college application deadlines, and graduation dates can be daunting. As parents, we have goals for our children that require their full attention to meet. As teachers and school leaders there is always more to do to provide the best Keystone learning experience possible. Who has time to look back?

Who has time NOT to look back! Reviewing accomplishments builds our confidence to take on new challenges. Reflecting on mistakes keeps us humble and reminds us of things not to repeat. Looking at the big picture in retrospect helps us to refocus and realign our priorities with reality. Looking back is an essential part of making sure we are headed in the right direction.

Many of you have helped Keystone in the process of “looking back” by giving us feedback in webinars, by e-mail, in surveys, and over the phone. Sometimes that feedback is suggestions that come from a less than perfect Keystone experience. Other times it is a pat on the back for a Student Services or Admissions representative, or a teacher that has gone above and beyond. Without hearing from our students and parents we are only looking back through a very narrow lens, so your comments and suggestions are very helpful.

All of our academic departments will be taking a look back over some of the positive enhancements and changes that have grown out of our reflection and your feedback. While many of you are not following a traditional school year calendar, for Key-stone we are ending a fiscal year, and beginning a new one, as well as preparing for our busy enrollment season that begins in August.

It is the perfect time for reflection before we begin implementing even more new improvements in the coming year. This blog is one of the improvements to support better communication with families that we implemented this past year. Keystone Plus was re- vamped to provide even more targeted teacher feedback and interaction. The Keystone High School Handbook and policies were revised and updated. We instituted an Academic Review Committee to give a broader representation of academic voices in issues related to policy and academic integrity. We refocused attention on teacher support and feedback, along with many other smaller initiatives.

We are proud of our accomplishments at Keystone, even as we learn from things we could do better.

Thank you for your continued feedback and support!

Communication for Understanding

Communication for Understanding

Focusing on communication

By Lisa McClure– Keystone Head of School

It is generally accepted that good communication is important in all aspects of our lives. Clear communication becomes even more critical in a distance learning program, where we do not have the benefit of reading body language and facial expressions when communicating.

Clear communication is always a two-way street. At Keystone we work hard to make sure our communication is clear and straightforward. When there are questions or when we are not as clear as we thought, we rely on our customers to communicate back to us with questions and concerns.

I have personally adopted three rules for communication for myself. Check them out and see if they ring true for you as well.

1. Try not to react to a written communication. Emotion can get in the way of understanding. If a certain word or phrase triggers an emotional response, it needs to be processed before responding to the message. Waiting until later in the day to craft a response works best for me.

2. Check all written communication for bias and assumptions before sending it out. We all come from different educational and family backgrounds. My first re-action as a reader is to assume that the writer comes from my same experiences. Recognizing the likelihood that the reader does not share my experiences increases my level of clarity. This can help to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding.

3. Pick up the phone and clarify issues rather than extending a string of e-mails that are not solving the problem. Too often it is easier to hit reply and make sure I am “heard” rather than making sure my response is moving an issue toward resolution.

I can pledge to you that Keystone teachers and staff have a passion for student success and will always try to communicate clearly with the goal of promoting understanding. When we miss the mark, it may be that we should have taken more time to craft a communication or given more consideration to a bias or assumption that may not be shared. We will continue to work on improving.

Let us partner with you as communicators working toward the success of your student. Keystone welcomes your communication!