Finding the balance with children’s screen time

Tara Heath

Tara Heath is a journalist and parent of two teenagers in California. Screen time is a constant battle in her household and she is passionate about helping others find a balance. She has been writing for several years, and generally focuses on parenting and education related topics. 

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Children have been using screens in school for ages. However, today’s teachers are able to really take advantages of mobile devices, with many schools fully embracing 1:1 learning. Los Angelean journalist Tara Heath takes a look at how teachers can work with parents in order to help find the right balance when it comes to screen time.

It's not a secret that many of your students spend a lot of time watching television or playing games. The newest apps are prime conversation at lunch, and the latest downloadable content is the talk of the playground. Football can become a distant memory when someone mentions Minecraft.

Media and technology is ingrained into every facet of your student's lives. The more society relies on technology, the more time students spend parked in front of a screen. You have seen the effects; their glazed eyes, red from staring at the screen and lack of sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates the average child spends seven hours of their day looking at a screen. This encompasses video games, handheld devices, computer screens, cell phones, or televisions. In May 2013, "internet use disorder" (IUD) was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Similar to addictions, screen time changes the release of dopamine in the brain chemistry of children.

Excessive screen time in children has shown a direct correlation between:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Learning
  • Attention problems
  • Social problems

With millions of kids under the age of 13 using Facebook and downloading over 30% of apps on phones, it is important to seek a solution to this problem. Setting limits on the time young children spend with screen technologies is as important as monitoring their health, development, and learning. New technologies haven't displaced television in children's lives - they merely added time in front of a screen.

Sitting in front of a screen for too long takes away from beneficial activities. Developing children need hands-on creative play, physical play, and interactions with peers and adults. Students will benefit from a connection with their friends, families, and you - their teacher.

Children miss out on joys of first hand learning. Technology has its place, but students miss out on critical experiences. A virtual science lab can be a wonderful supplement to a lesson, but students need to touch, measure, smell, and explore materials in addition to looking at things on a screen.

Experiences stimulate senses and increase retained knowledge. Students will remember completing an experiment, before recalling another YouTube video. Involvement helps build a basic platform for higher level concepts that follow in a student's education.

It cannot be denied that technology certainly has a place in your classroom - it’s all in how you use it that is so important. Alongside manipulatives and books, you will find Smartboards, iPads, and computer labs in your average classroom. Teachers are armed with technology and strive to offer students the best education possible. The use of technology for students without a doubt provides many benefits.

Studies have shown children benefit from exposure to thoughtfully constructed media content, as it can “promote pro-social behaviors and contribute to learning, especially when a caring adult is actively involved". Combined with more traditional methods of teaching, you will be able to increase knowledge and quality activities. It would be a disservice to your class if you failed to prepare them adequately for the world they live in.

Use of technology encourages new skill development to prepare students for future jobs and higher level education. School and teacher websites are great sources of information to help the parents know what is happening in the classroom. The Internet is full of enriching activities, games, and apps that promote learning and extend lesson concepts.

Problems arise when parents and teachers rely too heavily on screen time to entertain children. Parents and educators need to join forces and work together to limit screen time. A teacher is the frontline of defense to confront alarming screen time abuse.

Here are a few suggestions to implement with parents to be proactive about limiting screen time:

  • Send home information about children and impact of screen time
  • Create a challenge for students to cut back screen time
  • Educate children on how too much screen time may harm them

Parents look to you for guidance and trust your advice. An increase in productivity, comprehension, test performance, and classroom management may benefit your classroom with this collaboration. By restricting screen time, you will have teachers and parents asking about your secret for teaching success.

How do you go about finding the balance when it comes to screen time? Let us know below.

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