Gone are the days when we would hand our unhappy child the car keys to settle her/him while shopping. Now days parents are giving them their smart phone instead. This prompts the question How much time is too much screen time ? On 4 March, Leigh Sales presented an interesting story on the 7.30 Report about this very subject. So I thought a blog article would be a good place to start a parent conversation.
There are conflicting views about the increased use of smart phones and devices by children, especially under 5 years of age. Some say it delays their development while others say there is no evidence of any detrimental effects. In the 7.30 Report , Dr Joanne Orlando reported there is limited research around children using smart phones and devices and at this stage we know some of the risks and benefits but not all of them. I guess the adage should be everything in small doses.
Parents need to allow access to the devices responsibly. They need to pick the most suitable educational, age-appropriate programs and apps for their children to use during their screen time. This should be planned as an enjoyable co-learning experience with their child and not a way of getting that extra fifteen minutes to cook dinner, while your child is being entertained or distracted.
The increased use of screen time has brought major problems in the form of child obesity, lack of physical activity and the absence of communication between family members during meal times. We have all become so dependent on our devices that even going on a plane or to a restaurant for dinner, can cause stress for some people. The 2016 Common Sense Survey reported that 48 percent of parents have the urge to respond to social-networking messages, other notifications and texts immediately and that 69 percent do a check-up on their devices within the hour. The Yellow Social Media Report discovered 17 percent of males took their smart phones to the toilet. Has it become an addiction? And when did our mobile phones become anything other than a phone?
At least when it was a phone we had a conversation with friends or family members. Now days our conversations have been replaced by all forms of texting through social media platforms like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram etc. We can even run a business on a smart phone or device, while sitting in a coffee shop! So lets take a step back and see ourselves through the eyes of our children. What can she/he see? Well, I think children see ALL the devices we use, especially smart phones, as an essential part of their parent's daily lives. So why not their's?
On Friday 8th March there was a story on the ABC News about schools across NSW replacing written homework with a Google Classroom program for grades 3 students and up. My first thought was, You have got to be kidding! As if they don't spend enough time using ipads at home and in the classroom, they now have to do their homework on a computer. What happenned to the development of their fine motor skills through handwriting? Needless to say the parents involved in this pilot program are very unhappy their eight year old children have now had their screen time increased.
I believe that in order for the screen time to be valuable to children's learning, co-learning is the way to go. This allows you to scaffold your child's learning. Maybe you can even cut the amount of screen time down, as you have control over what programs and apps your child is using. Parents need to take into consideration their weekly committments and how and when it is suitable for their children to have access to a device with parental supervision. Their daily schedule needs to ensure their child eats healthy, does enough physical activity and doesn't use a device at least 1 hour before bed time. Just remember quality screen time as opposed to quantity is best!
As Sue Atkins once said, There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.
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