Article first appeared in the Portugal Resident.
In a multimedia-based world, for many the recent pandemic drove education to be taught through remote screens for the entire school day and was, for the most part, the only way of keeping in touch with families. Perhaps now is the time for parents and educators to review their approach and attitudes towards screen time.
Educational, paediatric and multimedia studies have evolved in the year that our world was faced with multiple lockdowns. New guidelines no longer state that young children should avoid screen time entirely – clearly reflecting the invaluable use of the interactive Zoom, Facetime etc. that families are using to keep in touch.
What is clear is that we need to consider that not all screen time should be regarded as equal. This is what should influence our approach as parents and educators in the creation of guidelines. One should reflect on the digital tool being used when establishing control, which at schools and in homes is normally related to time limits.
Today’s learners are not akin to the previous generation for whom the digital device and screen time were mainly related to television and the passive activity of sitting and watching. Utterly unlike today’s interactive activities of taking part in an online Zoom lesson or Facetiming Grandma and Grandad to share latest news or even a bedtime story!
Of course, there are the more contentious areas of screen time technology such as online gaming, and arguments with regard to time spent engaged in gaming activities.
Technology has developed and is rapidly changing the relationship that we have with our screens. I am very aware, as an educator, of the concerns regarding too much screen time, and how many believe that the technological generation will be held back by the number of hours spent on screens.
Of course, there is validation to these aspects, and it is a serious area of concern especially when, for some, screen time is unevenly focussed on social media and the negative impact that potentially this can have. What is important is to differentiate screen time, and not place all screen devices under the same heading.
The introduction in many schools of iPad and tablets has allowed students to become global learners, able to connect with others around the world to enhance their learning.
Educational platforms such as ClassDojo and Microsoft Teams have enabled schooling to continue during a pandemic, ensuring that learning has taken place with online interactive lessons, and allowing schools to stay connected and focused on their students’ wellbeing.
Project work that uses interactive apps like iMovie provide students with the opportunities to learn invaluable life skills, including creativity, freedom of expression, socialisation, relationship building, independence and empowerment.
We, as parents, expect to make the right informed choices with regard to screen time and type. Perhaps now a blanket 30 minutes of daily screen time will no longer be the case, more a considered understanding of the type of screen time and the learning that it initiates will dictate the amount of time allowed.
Recent research referred to in the TES speaks about the positive impact of screen time on modern learners, and how increased screen time in studies did not affect the wellbeing of children, whilst always cautioning about the type of screen time.
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of giving our children rules with regard to technology, but forgetting to follow the age-old adage of leading by example. How many minutes or hours have you spent engaged in passive screen time today, responding to your social media or texting friends at the dinner table whilst saying no screen time tonight?