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Reflections from the Lower School
Michelle Mills, Director of the Lower School
A great deal has been written recently about the amount of time elementary-aged students are spending in front of small screens. Although the full implications of the significant amount of time aren’t fully known, there are certainly reasons for concern. An article in Business Insider reminded us about limited screen time that both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs imposed on their own children. Another concern that many parents have is the tech-addiction issues that Facebook and Google have created.
As educators, we must also ask ourselves if we are contributing to this growing problem or if we are instead modeling a sensible way for our students and families to embrace technology without being plagued by its negative side effects. As schools make significant efforts to increase the amount of technology that is put into the hands of our students, we must also ensure that we properly balance technology in the classrooms and aren’t contributing to “too much screen time” concerns.
To accomplish this goal, we ask ourselves if the time that our students spend in front of screens is engaging and purposeful. We also recognize that our students must be joined together in focused face-to-face conversations without the interruptions of digital devices for a significant amount of time each school day. Our teachers also play an instrumental role in reviewing, monitoring, and guiding our students’ use of technology. Technology is viewed as just one of the tools that our students can use to solve problems, answer questions, or present information. We also hope to help our students become monitors of their own screen time and know when it is time to disengage from technology.
At Home – A Few Tips:
As parents, you play a very important role in teaching your child healthy use of technology. Children need and expect limits. Like all activities, screen time would have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity and should be made a daily priority, especially for our youngest students. Screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. Co-viewing and co-engaging with your children when they are using screens provides an opportunity for you to interact with your child and also helps you to understand what they are doing as well as be a part of it. Create tech-free zones at family mealtimes and social gatherings. Considering recharging devices overnight outside of your child’s bedroom. This helps to avoid the temptation to use them when children should be sleeping. Thousands of apps are labeled as educational but there isn’t a lot of research on the actual quality of these apps. Consider looking to organizations such as Common Sense Media (https://www.commonsensemedia.org) for reviews about age-appropriate apps and games.
For Older Children:
Children should be made aware that a platform’s privacy settings do not actually make things “private”. Help them to understand that images and thoughts that are shared online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint indefinitely. It is important to keep lines of communication open and to let your child know that you’re there if they have any questions or concerns. Children should also be warned about the importance of privacy and the dangers of online predators. Children will make mistakes, but bullying or posting inappropriate comments should be addressed immediately.
Digital devices are an essential part of our world, but helping our children learn that they should be used moderately and appropriately is vital. Face-to-face time with family, friends, and teachers plays a pivotal and important role in promoting children’s healthy learning and development.