The ongoing discussion about screen time for young children has sparked a debate about finding the right balance between technology and a child’s development. Experts suggest that preschoolers need social interaction and hands-on experiences to develop their skills, but a certain amount of screen time can also have educational benefits. Parents and educators are encouraged to monitor and limit children’s screen time while still allowing them to explore and learn through interactive media. However, finding the perfect balance is challenging and requires careful consideration of each child’s unique needs.
Teaching children that screens are bad can be unproductive because it perpetuates the myth that technology is inherently negative and harmful. In reality, screens can provide many positive benefits, such as educational opportunities, social connections, and entertainment. By demonizing screens, children may develop a negative attitude towards technology, limiting their curiosity, creativity, and ability to thrive in a digital world. Instead, it’s essential to teach children how to use screens responsibly and safely, while also encouraging them to explore, learn, and connect online.
When approaching the topic of healthy screen time consumption with my homeschooled children, I draw parallels with our relationship with food. From a young age, we teach children to have a balanced and educated view of food, explore tastes and be smart about making the right choices that will benefit our bodies as a whole. There are wholesome foods and there are companies that manufacture cheese out of corn and there are companies that use lobbyists to integrate and normalize addictive and harmful food options and substances to make a profit. All these facts are part of life and children need to be aware of them.
Screens are integrated into our lives just like every other commodity. In today’s digital age, screen time has become an integral part of our daily lives. From smartphones to laptops, we are constantly connected to a variety of screens. This has transformed the way we work, communicate, and socialize. Screen time can be used for work and entertainment, enabling us to efficiently multitask and stay connected with friends and family. However, just like excessive food consumption, excessive screen time can lead to negative consequences. Just like certain foods are made and marketed to bring excessive profits, digital products are not all made equally and with equal intentions. Therefore, it is crucial to make children’s interaction with the digital world mindful and teach them how to maintain a balance between screen time and other everyday activities to ensure a healthy and productive lifestyle.
In our homeschool daily life children use screens and technology to conduct their research, interact with family overseas, learn to play an instrument, take art classes, and teach themselves various skills. And then there is of course screen entertainment for pleasure like educational video games. Chances are, regardless of the path children will choose later on in life, technology will be an essential part of their daily work routine.
Just like with food, we make a great emphasis to help our children determine what content is healthy and beneficial for their consumption and what content is designed to make their body and brain depend on it.
Dangers of excessive screen time for children
First, let’s look at the danger that is associated with instances when screen time duration, quality, sources and the amount go unchecked.
Obesity: Children who spend too much time in front of screens are more likely to be overweight or obese, due to physical inactivity and unhealthy snacking habits.
Sleep problems: Blue light emitted by screens can suppress melatonin production, making it harder for children to fall asleep at night and leading to sleep deprivation.
Vision problems: Too much screen time can strain children’s eyes and lead to myopia, or nearsightedness. Our children’s devices are equipped with blue light filters or they are required to wear blue light filtering glasses if devices don’t have one.
Social isolation: When children spend too much time online, they may miss out on important social interactions and relationships.
Impaired cognitive development: Studies show that excessive screen time may impair children’s attention spans, memory, and other cognitive skills.
Cyberbullying: Children who spend a lot of time online are more vulnerable to cyberbullying, which can have both immediate and long-term effects on their mental health.
Addiction: Screen time can be addictive, and heavy use can lead to a loss of control over the use of technology. This can have negative consequences for children’s mental health and academic performance. Excessive screen time can lead to addiction, which can hinder a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.
Screen Time Can be Overstimulating: Excessive screen time can overstimulate a child’s brain, leading to attention and concentration problems.
Screen Time May Limit Creativity: While some educational apps can be helpful, they may limit creativity and imagination compared to self-directed activities such as playing with blocks, drawing, or exploring nature.
Screen Time May be Inaccessible to All Children: Not all families have access to tablets, smartphones, or the internet, which can create inequalities in learning opportunities for children.
Screen Time May Hinder Hands-On Learning: Montessori education emphasizes hands-on learning, and excessive screen time may lessen opportunities for this type of learning.
To mitigate these potential drawbacks, Montessori educators recommend using technology in moderation, focusing on quality educational content, and supplementing technology with hands-on learning activities that encourage creativity, imagination, and self-direction.
Benefits of screentime in the preschool classroom
Screen time in primary classrooms has also many benefits, including helping children develop important skills like fine motor abilities, problem-solving, and spatial reasoning. It can also provide opportunities for shared experiences and socialization with peers. Interactive educational apps and programs can promote early literacy and numeracy skills. Additionally, digital technology can offer a means of access to previously inaccessible resources like virtual field trips or language immersion programs.
Imagination and creativity: Screen time can inspire children’s imagination and creativity by introducing them to new ideas and storylines. Children can watch educational videos and documentaries, explore digital art programs, or participate in virtual storytelling events.
Stress relief: Spending time on a screen can help reduce stress and anxiety for some children. Watching movies, playing games, and listening to music can provide entertainment and relaxation, which can help them calm down after a long day.
Physical benefits: While excessive screen time is linked to negative physical health outcomes, some screen time activities can promote physical activity. Children can engage in fitness apps or games that encourage outdoor activities like hiking and biking.
Enhanced learning experience: Screen time can be a valuable tool for enhancing the learning experience of young children in preschool classrooms by offering educational content in the form of videos, games, and interactive applications.
Improved engagement and motivation: Preschool-age children tend to be highly motivated by technology and can be more engaged in lessons that involve technology compared to traditional teaching methods.
Development of digital literacy skills: Exposing young children to technology and screen time can help them develop essential digital literacy skills that they will need in today’s digital world.
Accessibility for children with learning disabilities: Technology can be used as an accommodation for children with learning disabilities who may struggle with traditional teaching methods.
Integration with STEAM curriculum: Screen time can play a pivotal role in integrating science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) concepts into the preschool curriculum.
It is important to note that screen time should be used judiciously and always in combination with hands-on activities and teacher-led instruction.
how Educators can use children’s screen time for teaching in the Montessori classroom
The use of screen time to teach may not align with this philosophy as it may not provide children with the opportunity to directly interact with their environment and explore the world around them. Montessori schools typically focus on creating materials that help children learn through their senses and engage in meaningful, hands-on experiences. Montessori schools generally do not use screen time to teach, as they promote experiential learning that focuses on hands-on experiences and encourages children to engage all their senses.
Montessori education is grounded in the belief that children learn best by exploring and discovering information for themselves, rather than being passive receivers of information. Thus, the use of screens can be limited and purposeful to support learning objectives and should not replace the integral hands-on learning experiences that form the foundation of Montessori education. Instead, teachers use a variety of Montessori materials and techniques to foster children’s curiosity, creativity, and independence.
However, in this rapidly evolving technological era, limited and purposeful use of screen time may be necessary in some instances. It is up to each individual Montessori school to decide how to balance the use of technology with their educational philosophy and values.
Montessori educators recommend limiting screen time to no more than 30 minutes a day for young children. This time should be spent on high-quality educational content.
Use reputable educational apps: There are many educational apps available that align with Montessori principles and teachings. Choose apps that focus on specific learning objectives, such as math or language skills.
Incorporate technology into existing lessons: Use technology to complement existing Montessori lessons.
Encourage self-directed learning: Provide children with opportunities to use technology to explore and learn on their own. This approach aligns with Montessori’s belief in self-directed learning.
Use technology as a tool, not a replacement for hands-on learning: Remember, technology should be used to enhance learning, not replace it. Montessori educators believe in hands-on learning, so use technology as a tool to facilitate this approach.
Remember, Montessori education focuses on hands-on learning and self-directed learning, so technology should be used to enhance these principles. Incorporating technology can be a great way to engage children in learning activities and introduce them to new concepts in a fun and interactive way.
how to use screen time for Children’s Learning at Home
Use educational apps: There are many apps available that can help children learn new skills and concepts. Look for apps that are age-appropriate and designed to teach important topics like math, science, and reading.
Watch educational videos: Streaming sites like YouTube have plenty of videos that can be both entertaining and educational. Set aside some time each day to watch videos on topics that interest your child.
Play educational games: Video games can be a fun way for children to learn problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Look for games that challenge your child while still being age-appropriate.
Use online resources: Websites like Khan Academy offer free online lessons on a variety of topics. These resources can be a great supplement to in-person classes.
Limit non-educational screen time: While it’s okay to let your child watch TV or play video games for entertainment, it’s important to set limits. Too much screen time can have negative effects on children’s health and development. Set a screen time schedule and stick to it.
Use virtual field trips: With many museums and parks offering virtual tours, take advantage of this and use it as an opportunity to teach your child about history, art, and science.
Use video conferencing: With the pandemic, video conferencing has become more popular and can be a great tool for children’s learning. Encourage your child to participate in online classes, virtual book clubs, and other online activities.
Encourage reading e-books: Encourage your child to read e-books or listen to audiobooks which can help improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary.
Use educational documentaries: Many streaming platforms offer educational documentaries and series on science, history, and nature. Watch them with your child and have a discussion afterward to reinforce what they learned.
Follow educational social media accounts: Many educational organizations and experts have social media accounts where they share useful information, resources, and tips for children’s learning. Encourage your child to follow these accounts to stay engaged and motivated.
Use interactive learning tools: There are many interactive learning tools available online, such as quizzes, simulations, and online games. These tools can make learning fun and engaging for children.
Use online tutoring services: If your child needs extra help with a subject or topic, consider using an online tutoring service. These services provide one-on-one help and support from qualified tutors who can help your child succeed.
Learn a new language: Screen time can also be used to learn a new language. There are many language learning apps and websites available that can help your child learn a new language at their own pace.
Encourage online collaboration: Encourage your child to collaborate with other children online to work on projects or assignments. This can help them develop their communication and teamwork skills.
how We can help children build healthy relationships with screens and technology and Learn to self-regulate their screen time
Create screen-free zones: Create screen-free zones such as the dinner table or the bedroom to ensure that children have time to unplug and focus on other activities. Children need clear rules and guidance when it comes to screen time. Setting limits on how much time they can spend on screens and when they can use them can be helpful. For example, parents can consider setting a time limit on screen time and creating a tech-free time, such as mealtime or bedtime. This may involve setting apart specific hours each day, week, or month to engage in activities without devices and technology. Set a limit on the amount of time children can spend on screens. Children aged 2 to 5 should be allowed no more than an hour of screen time each day. For children aged 6 and above, two hours a day is enough.
Use positive reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques like acknowledging their effort of turning off their device on time to encourage children to follow the rules and limit their screen time.
Model Healthy Screen Habits: Children learn by observing their parents and caregivers. So, if we want our children to develop healthy habits with screens and technology, we need to model those habits ourselves. We should be mindful of our own screen time, turn off our devices during meals and conversations with others, and prioritize face-to-face interactions.
Encourage Active Screen Time: Instead of passive screen time, encourage children to engage in active screen time that involves creating, problem-solving, or learning. This could include playing educational games, creating digital artwork or music, or watching informative videos.
Foster Outdoor and Offline Activities: It’s important for children to engage in activities that don’t involve screens and technology. Encouraging outdoor play, reading books, or playing board games can help children develop a healthy relationship with technology.
Teach Self-Regulation: Help children learn to self-regulate their screen time by teaching them mindful practices. Encourage them to take breaks, practice deep breathing, or engage in physical activity after using screens for an extended period.
Talk About Digital Citizenship: Teach children about the importance of responsible digital citizenship. This includes being safe online, treating others with kindness and respect, and protecting personal information.
Remember, every child is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to building a healthy relationship with screens and technology. Be attentive to your child’s needs and preferences and collaborate with them to create healthy screen habits and boundaries.
Use Parental Controls: Make use of parental control features in your child’s devices to restrict access to inappropriate content or limit their screen time. Some apps and devices also have built-in settings that allow parents to track their child’s device usage.
Co-Engage in Screen Activities: Parents can engage with their children during screen time activities, which promotes active engagement and bonding that leads to a healthy relationship with screens and technology.
Have Conversations with Your Kids: Open and ongoing conversations with your children about their screen use will help them understand the importance of healthy screen habits.
Ultimately, building healthy relationships with screens and technology requires conscious effort and intentionality from parents and caregivers. By creating a supportive and positive environment for your children, you can help them develop healthy screen habits and self-regulation skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Screen time tracker free printable
Parents and teachers need to use screen time trackers for kids to ensure that they are not spending excessive time on digital devices, which can have negative effects on their physical health, mental development, and social skills. With screen time trackers, parents and teachers can set limits, schedule breaks, and monitor usage to promote healthy screen habits. Additionally, tracking screen time can help identify problematic patterns, such as excessive use before bedtime, which can disrupt sleep. Overall, screen time trackers can facilitate a balanced and responsible use of technology among kids.
Download the PDF. Print a Screen Time Tracker of your choice. Laminate to use it with dry erase marker month after month.