As much as educational technology seems to be the way forward for teaching and learning, we cannot deny that these tech devices pose a lot of harm to young children if not well monitored. Being exposed to tech devices for long—such as smartphones, laptops, projectors, etc.—could affect a child’s eyesight and overall health. Ask any parent or teacher these days what causes the most conflict between them and their children, and 9 out of 10 times, you will get the answer “screen time.” Technology is addictive, so are these devices. Hence, the need to help students regulate their screentime and also manage their social life.
It is common to see active, vibrant, and socially connected kids become isolated, anxious, and withdrawn due to how much time they spend on these tech devices. But things do not have to go down that path. Whether you are a parent, guardian, or teacher, you can teach your child/students to develop healthy screen habits that will help them regulate their screentime.
For parents, below are tips to help your kids manage their screentime.
- Be an example
Children learn by example and through observation. The easiest way to teach your children to manage their screentime is by doing the same. If you don’t do well in self-regulating your device use then you cannot set up a good model for your children. It is also hard to hold children to standards that you cannot keep because they are smart enough to pick on them. Some adult screen habits that children pick on include:
– Looking at the phone while in conversation with friends or family.
– Picking up the phone whenever boredom sets in.
– Checking the phone first thing in the morning.
– Finding it difficult to unplug the phone at night.
These habits and many more are not healthy for young children. But when they watch you do the right things, it is easier to learn to manage their screentime.
- Teach them the concept of time and the need to manage their screentime
Young children naturally find it hard to understand the concept of time. But they can learn via thorough teaching and practice. As parents, you can teach your kids how to manage their screentime by prompting them to practice time management often. Practice, they say, makes perfect. While at home, you can use a kitchen timer to keep track of time and put it where your children can see it. Set the clock to a particular time, let’s say 5 minutes or less. Then give your kids a 5-minute warning or more so they can mentally prepare to shut down.
However, you should have a standby activity when they shut down because it is hard to stop doing something fun if there is nothing engaging to do next. In other words, let the transition to another activity be smooth. And do not bombard them with activities, rather be deliberate in your approach. Encourage other activities—such as playing outside, reading a book, telling stories, etc. Note that the other activity should not require a tech device, as the plan is to help them regulate and manage their screentime.
- Automatically set limits on electronic use
Most of these tech devices come with options that allow you to monitor how much time your child spends on them. You can automatically set time limits on these devices or their frequently used applications. That way, the app, phone, or laptop automatically shuts down when it reaches its limit.
Another way to regulate their screentime is to create technology-free zones in your house where electronics are not allowed. It could be your kitchen, dining room, sitting room, or restroom, etc. You can also set time for your whole family to unplug from their technological devices. Such times do not only allow them to manage their screen time; it also enables the family to spend quality time together.
- Keep your child’s bedroom screen-free
It is difficult to monitor your child’s screentime if they use devices out of your sight. For this reason, you should not allow TVs, video game consoles, smartphones computers, etc., in your child’s bedroom. They might be tempted to use them late at night for hours, which could be detrimental to their physical and mental development.
How Teachers Can Help Students Manage Their Screentime
Teaching students/children how to regulate their screen time will be more effective if they are constantly groomed by their parents and teachers. So here are few tips for teachers to help students manage their screen time.
- Schedule for hands-on activities or projects that children can complete at home and submit online. Homework reduces screen time only when it is done on paper, just like they do in a physical class setting. Students could write a story or complete artwork and submit them virtually via any means provided by the teacher.
- Take frequent breaks during extended synchronous/asynchronous sessions, especially for younger learners.
- Break online class time into chunks.
- Facilitate physical collaborative learning. Here, students can leave their devices and interact with one another, casually or discuss any topic provided by the teacher.
- Use other school materials. This does not negate the essence of tech devices in any way. Instead, it creates a balance and helps students learn how to seek information from different sources.
- Introduce fun activities, in-between classes.
- Set boundaries on the usage of tech devices in class.
Helping students manage their screen time is essential for overall growth, as they get to understand—early enough—that life is beyond technology. Early exposure to technology has its benefits and detriments, but with proper management and guidance, students can have a healthy virtual lifestyle.