Parents and teachers struggle constantly with how best to utilize and manage screentime with children. It is the result of a love/hate relationship that many adults, too, have with technology, and as the people who are tasked with helping our children develop good habits, we see the possibilities for learning but are wary of the drawbacks. Teachers are concerned that if children are learning from devices, they may be missing out on hands-on learning opportunities. Parents, who often use screentime at times when children are expected to entertain themselves, find their children watching visually engaging but purposeless videos or playing fast-paced games. What are the costs of technology for children, and what can we do better?
The mindless technology does the same thing to children that it does to us as adults. It sucks them in and does not let go until they are pulled off the device or something more exciting interferes. They are quite literally wasting time. This is fine ocassionally, if you need their attention to be focused on something distracting and engaging. It is perfect if a child is in the hospital or if you have an important phonecall and cannot be interrupted, but most often it is stealing time from much more productive and creative activities, the kinds of experiences that shaped our childhoods. Instead of assuming your child will watch a device on a plane, at a restaurant or during downtime indoors, try providing a pouch with drawing supplies, puzzles or magnetic games. With screentime becoming the go-to activity, children are missing opportunities to engage in the creative process. Giving children tools to work and a blank slate enables them to generate ideas from within rather than rely on external stimuli.
Children learn new skills through a variety of entry points, and technology can enhance their learning, if used properly. As with many things, quality is more important than quantity. When children engage with quality online teaching tools or apps that foster creative learning, they can unlock skills and learn new concepts. This takes guidance, however, and planning. If children are hoping to have screentime, make it a learning opportunity. Talk about what they can use their screentime to do. A research project? Make and edit videos? Practice a new language? There are limitless possibilities, but often the problem is that parents and children do not work together to focus screentime on productive activities.
At Clarion, teachers make every effort to use technology wisely and only when it enhances classroom learning. It is a resource for social studies projects in that it allows the teachers to go beyond the walls of the classroom and experience other parts of the world. In math, teachers can use technology to introduce children to new concepts, and then provide opportunities to practice these skills with interactive games. In these examples, teachers create a foundation of understanding using hands-on learning tools such as class discussions, math manipulatives and read-alouds with an eye for how technology can deepen understanding. Our innovative teachers thoughtfully and purposefully integrate technology into classroom learning.