While it is a popular topic of research and heated debates, it is too early to identify the long term effects technology is having on the development of children. Nevertheless, it's always a good idea to be proactive and make efforts to educate students on the topic. As it turns out, last week when discussing screen time with my Year 4 students, I was the one to get an education!
This was apparent to me only last week as I was teaching a Year 4 Technology Class. A central idea of their STEAM unit this term was that "not all fun is high tech". The students are looking at engineering low tech cures for boredom. As part of the hook for the unit, I (being the mindful educator that I am) thought I should address screen time with the class. The children were gobsmakingly knowledgeable on the topic. They were....SUPER aware. Which was great. Cut my lesson in half pretty much. Did it mean they had it perfect? No, they are still kids and moderation is not something they necessarily have nailed yet. Many admitted that they played on their iPads for extended periods in the evening at home on top of the time used in the classroom.
There's no doubt that parents are busier than they have ever been, often both working. Many adults seek their own down time on their devices and often also let their children do the same. Anyone walking around the local shopping centre can see the children in strollers watching devices. They are handed to children in restaurants and when they are in the car to keep them entertained. They are the babysitters of the 21st century. To be clear, I am not criticising this - just making the observation.
The Problem for Schools
Now here is the bigger concern for me and for schools in general:
School Screen Time + Home Screen Time = a LOT of Screen Time!
The question I would ask is.....what is the most valuable screen time? I would argue it is when it is used for learning...but of course I would....but I am not the only person that gets a say in this.
Striking a Balance
How can teachers help? While there is a crazy push to continue to use technology in bigger, better ways, it is also important to remember that is isn't the ONLY way. Teachers should always be focusing on pedagogy first and be mindful of the amount of time their students are spending on their devices in the classroom. Break it up, add in movement and make students focus on things across the room to help give their eyes a rest. Additionally, consider any digital tasks being set for homework.
Modeling Mindful Technology Use
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
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