Parents everywhere struggle to find the right combination of studying and screen time for their children. If the kids had a vote, they’d “study” in front of their favorite TV show, or attempt to play video games while writing a paper. Concerned parents know that too much screen time can distract students and hinder their ability to focus and complete the task at hand. So should parents ban screen time altogether until their child goes to uni? What is the right balance? And how can teachers, tutors and educational professionals use screen time to teach their students?
More and more classrooms are taking on a “blended learning environment,” a place where students utilize computers, videos and other technology to enhance their education. As out world becomes more and more dependent on technology, some agree that exposing students, starting at a very young age, to apps and other forms of technology as a learning tool is beneficial. They believe that students can learn from a computer game, video resource or other form of technology as long as there is a teacher or facilitator nearby to help with any issues or questions. Very few argue that technology should replace teachers, but many agree that a technological based classroom is great preparation for the real world.
But there are others who worry that the use of technology can interfere with students building and fostering relationships in the classroom, and that the focus on social skills could take a back seat to mastering the technical skill.
So what is the right balance? How can schools and parents work together to make the technology made available to them, work for them?
Parents and educators can ask these three questions to determine what sort of screen time, and how much, is beneficial for their child.
Is it appropriate?
The kind of technology an individual student needs depends largely on their age and educational level. At a preschool level, showing a video explaining a certain concept, even a basic concept, is no substitute for practical, real world experience on the same concept. However, for middle and high school students, a sample video on Youtube demonstrating how to work a particular formula or solve a math problem may be useful. The type and amount of screen time that is appropriate is based on how much real world experience the student needs in order to grasp the concept.
Is it meaningful?
Many educational professionals and parents worry that screen time can take the place of meaningful interactions and social relationships. Screen time can be very helpful in the classroom, at a tutoring session, or at home while a student is working on homework. It can be a good tool to use to enhance their understanding, but should not be used in place of asking questions in class, staying after school, starting a study group, or using peers/teachers to help maximize education. Screen time is helpful, but shouldn’t be used as a substitute for meaningful interactions with the real world.
Is it empowering?
When students use Ipads, computers, and mobile devices in the classroom, there is a chance that they will begin to feel safe making mistakes on the screen instead of raising their hand and risking making a mistake in class. When technology starts to become something students hide behind, it may be time to take it down a notch. If the screen becomes a crutch for already introverted students to fade into the background, the screen time could be doing more harm than good. Technology should be used to empower students, to enhance what they are doing and learning in the classroom, but not as something to replace their voice in the classroom.
In a world of apps, webinars and YouTube, technology in the classroom and as part of continued learning at home can be invaluable. Parents and educators can find the balance between no screen time and too much screen time by being active participants in their student’s education, and adjusting the amount of screen time and technology they use based these simple questions.