Managing Kids’ Screen Time in the Digital Age
Is my child getting too much screen time? Are there good and bad kinds of screen time? What is considered screen time? If these are questions you’ve asked yourself, you’re not alone—and in the digital age, these are questions that need to be asked in order to properly manage your child’s time in front of a computer or television screen.
Screen time was defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics for measuring the amount of time a child spends in front of a computer or television screen. The initial intention was to provide recommendations that could offset the potentially harmful effects of passive computer or television use, especially for very young children.
However, the definition of screen time is changing. Studies have found that certain programs can improve social and language skills, as well as school readiness for children above two years old. Screen time can greatly differ in quality and effectiveness when it comes to educating your child.
Using Screen Time to Encourage your Child’s Growth
You can help support your child’s learning with the correct use of education technology. To find out if your child’s technology use is serving his or her growth, consider the factors below.
- Is it built into a larger curriculum? Your chosen technology should not be a stand-alone curriculum; rather, it should be built into an educational structure. It should function as just one asset among many learning activities, resources, and educational models. Make sure there is a balance of technology and other activities.
- Is it a group or collaborative activity? Working with adults and peers in conjunction with interactive technology can have a positive effect on your child’s social skills. If your child is spending a lot of screen time solo, think about how to integrate peers and adults into that time.
- Is there active play involved? Screen time is generally a very sedentary activity, but using gaming systems that require physical movements, or participating in something like geocaching, which is essentially a treasure hunt using a GPS or a mobile app, can be very active.
- Is the content educational and engaging? Providing your child with the right technology itself is crucial. Avoid simply giving your child something to do. The media should encourage your child’s growth mentally and, if possible, physically. This can include educational online games and activities.
- Is screen time limited? While the two-hour guideline is still in place today, there are circumstances that may require more or less screen time for your child. Consider whether your child’s screen time is passive and immobile or if it is engaging, and then use your best judgment.
For example, students who attend an online school are actively engaged during screen time. They interact often with the online curriculum, resources, and educational tools. Online students also have opportunities to communicate and collaborate with their teachers and classmates in the virtual classroom.
Screen Time for Online Learners
If your child is an online student, there are other considerations to keep in mind when evaluating his or her screen time. It should be considered a part of a holistic approach to children’s learning and growth, especially with virtual learners.
It may help to view screen time as a medicine to be used when appropriate, rather than as a germ to be avoided. Consider this viewpoint and the following ideas as you assess screen time:
- Technology can be used as a learning tool, like art supplies or other classroom instruments, to boost your child’s understanding of a topic. Think about how the online resources your child is accessing help him or her to grow.
- Don’t count the time spent on technological devices without measuring its purpose or effectiveness. Time spent in front of the screen is not an effective measurement without an evaluation of its quality and purpose.
- Consider whether the technology being used is the best possible way to teach your child that particular topic or lesson. Sometimes, technology is the best resource students have access to.
- Monitor whether your child is spending most of his or her time in one program or if he or she has a rich array of activities. Changing things up often may help stimulate your child’s brain to think in different ways and may offer new challenges.
It may help to think about technology as a possible supplement to your child’s growth. However, you should continue to periodically evaluate the effectiveness of your child’s tech use to be sure that the screen time is aiding his or her growth.
Does your child have set screen time guidelines? We’d love to hear how your family manages this time in the comments below.