Children are becoming progressively more adept with modern technology. There is an ongoing shift in the way technology is used in the home and the classroom that places youth in a position that is different from generations past. The fact that we are using screens to complete advanced tasks and to accomplish familiar tasks in new ways means that our young people are introduced to these technologies as tools, whereas older generations may be more inclined to view tablets and the like as evolved forms of the Gameboy or the notorious “idiot box”.
In recent years, conversation on the topic has revolved around reducing screen time for children. There is an opportunity for parents of elementary and high school students to alter the dialogue surrounding screen time and children. While reducing screen time to promote exercise is vital for good health, reducing screen time simply for the sake of reducing it – akin to how parents used to limit time spent in front of the television – is a tactic that should be reevaluated. Parents should put a greater emphasis on how they support a positive relationship between their children and the tech their children use on a daily basis.
However, in order to facilitate positive engagement between their children and the screen, parents of elementary and high school students must develop their own understanding of what constitutes good screen time vs. bad screen time for their children. This is a difficult differentiation to make, but it is a necessary step because technology and new media are no longer entertainment channels, but instead extensions of the learning and living environments. Children should be adequately equipped to handle these tools and to grow with them as they continue to change. Further, it is critical for parents to close the gap between themselves and technology. By gaining an understanding of technology and the differences between good and bad screen time, parents take a step towards putting themselves back in the driver’s seat.
How then, do parents even begin to decipher what content falls under bad and good screen time? Because the manner in which each child learns is different and the context and circumstance are always changing, it’s crucial that parents have an open mind when making decisions about what sort of material their children engage with.
If you are a parent who controls your child’s screen time to some degree, what do you consider good screen time? I’ve provided some thoughts and examples below, but I would be thrilled to open up the conversation. Let me know in the comments section.
Brainstorm: Good Screen Time
- Minecraft: To most parents of elementary and middle school students, this one probably doesn’t come as a surprise. The game has experienced widespread employment in the classroom and is very popular at home as well. It is held in high regard because players are able to develop and sharpen “logic, problem solving, goal setting, science, economics and literacy” skills. Do your kids play Minecraft either at home or at school? Let me know! You can also check out MinecraftEdu for more info.
- Content that appeals to the “four Cs”: Common Sense Media’s four Cs should be taken into consideration when striving to maximize the time your child spends with the screen. The four Cs are connection, critical thinking, context, and creativity. Does the media your child is engaging with provide an experience he or she can connect to and learn from? Does it require critical thought that digs deeper and challenges the student to think in new ways about complex problems? Does it help your child understand how technology fits into the larger world (e.g. Are there problems faced within a game that can be related to real life?) Does it stimulate creativity?
- Creative writing: Writing stories and prose, using technology to keep journals, and doing quick write activities are all powerful ways to employ tablets and laptops. Writing is often a difficult activity to get kids to do at home, but perhaps the involvement of new technology can encourage young learners to hone their creative writing skills outside of the classroom. It’s also an opportunity to work on typing and organizing documents, and to use technology to learn outside of gaming.
- Coding: Kids are totally capable of learning simple code from a very early age (and parents, you can learn, too!) Computer programming is a highly sought after skill in the professional world and learning among adults is gaining tons of popularity as of late. It’s the way of the future and definitely something young students can learn from home using free non-profit platforms like Code.org.
- Informative TV and film: Some of the above examples focus more on skill-building than on growing knowledge of the world in the traditional sense. Do you remember when you used to watch programs or movies in school as a kid? This same use of screen time can still happen at home. For the younger learners, there are resources like PBS Kids, and for middle and high school students, there is a massive wealth of documentaries that explore curriculum content in further detail as well as every era of history you can think of!
- Online tutoring: Online tutoring is one of the most practical ways to apply technology in the home in order to learn material that will directly improve the student’s performance in the classroom. Some online tutoring platforms even support mobile phone and tablet interaction as well as computer.