Screen time - how much is too much?
I’m sorry to say, but I’m not too sure myself.
Part of my hesitation to say one way or the other comes from the students themselves. Working with a group of students on resilience and change, I’ve learned that technology can be terrible ––and that technology can be great. Having screen time allows us to connect with friends and family who may not live close by. It allows us to learn more and more quickly. Screen time gives us the chance to explore our passions more deeply and connect with others who enjoy those same things. For many students, the screen offers a place to relax by listening to music or drawing on their tablet. These are great things.
On the other hand, more screen time can mean more exposure to cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content. It can mean distractions from homework and disagreements with adults about how much time they get with their electronics. Screen time can also lead to headaches, sleeping difficulties, and struggles connecting with peers face-to-face.
Since it’s not a clear-cut answer, let’s change the question. Instead of “how much is too much” or “how can we cut back,” why don’t we ask how we can make screen time a positive, productive experience for our students? How can we make screen time active and engaging rather than passive and mindless?
For instance, why not watch YouTube with your student or play the latest game they are into? Could you create a family Snapchat account with your students to keep in touch with other relatives? Perhaps instead of letting them watch movies on their tablets alone, you could watch together and have a family movie night? All of these screen options offer an opportunity to connect with our students and their interests while, at the same time, giving the opportunity to model personal boundaries when it comes to screen time and internet use.
Want some other ideas on how to make screen time more engaging? Try some of these options:
Learn to Code: Have your student learn about coding through services like Scratch Jr., Raspberry Pi, Kodable, or Scratch. Build a program with them and see what you can create together. Kodable, Scratch, and Scratch Jr. are all online programs.
Share a Passion: Have your student create and share something on https://diy.org/. This is an online community built for kids where anyone can challenge themselves to try something new or share some of their own passions. It’s like Instagram and YouTube combined into one, but it’s safer and more kid friendly.
Practice Time Management: Have your student complete daily tasks on https://habitica.com/static/home. Everything they complete earns them experience and allows them to level up a character of their creation. Students can also use experience to earn outfits and pets for their characters. Students can create tasks lists based on their chores or homework and can assign a priority level to each task. It’s gaming and time management wrapped into one.
Create a Book: Have your student create their own book at https://www.storyjumper.com/. Students can personalize every page right up to the front and back covers and then share their story with others or order a hard copy of their book for home. We will look for a signed copy in the RCLS library soon!
Science Project: Have your student create their own science project at https://www.sciencebuddies.org/. Students can search through hundreds of projects based on subject area and difficulty of project. Not wanting to build something but are just curious and want to learn? Have your student be a scientist by learning how things work at https://www.howstuffworks.com/.
Make a Movie: Have your student get out their inner Spielberg and make their own movie. Try apps like Lego Movie Maker, iMovie, Magisto, or Stop Motion Studio. There may not be CGI explosions available, but there is still plenty to play around with here.
Instead of making screen time a battle, make it something that your student enjoys and that you approve. The amount of screen time is up to you, but regardless of how much time we give our students, let’s make sure it is safe, appropriate, and engaging!
We hope Mr. Bakke’s recommendations will support your efforts to offer safe, age-appropriate options for technology time. In a recent article that considers the “ongoing buzz about how Silicon Valley parents––particularly those who are technology executives and investors––keep their children off screens,” teen counselor and Washington Post contributor Ana Homayoun contends that, in reality, those Silicon Valley parents, like the rest of us, are still trying to figure it out. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some limits for screen time, most particularly for young children. But when it comes to school-age children, most agree that there’s “no way you can just say no to screens.” Today’s kids will be at a “huge disadvantage,” one Silicon Valley tech manager notes, “if they have no experience with this type of technology.”
In partnership with parents, RCLS works to give students every advantage for succeeding in the 21st-century world. One of these advantages is a healthy, productive knowledge of new technologies. Committed to the goal of shaping young people who create with technology rather than consume it, RCLS utilizes tech tools and time to traditional ends: to enable kids to excel in both academic and professional contexts. For more on how we do this, read Raising Kids who Create with Technology, not Consume It.
Homayoun, A. (2018, Dec. 27). How Much Screen Time? Silicon Valley Parents are still Trying to Figure It Out. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2018/12/27/how-much-screentime-debate-all-parents-are-just-trying-figure-it-out/?utm_term=.c50cb30d36fe