By Teachers, For Teachers
Digital devices have swept our nation and our schools. Some may even say they have taken over our lives. Child development experts have advised to us limit screen time, but with so many children using these devices, not just at home but in school, it may be hard to manage. Many people suggest the overusage of screen time is not happening in school, but at home. Children are having free reign to use electric devices, and parents are not setting limits or monitoring their online activity. It’s a growing concern for administrators because so many young children are coming to school tired, depressed or filled with anxiety, all factors that are exhibited from the overuse of screen time. Educators and schools can use their authority to encourage students to reflect upon their tech use as well as use innovative approaches to limit screen time both inside and outside of the classroom. Here are a few suggestions.
In order for children to fully grasp how much they use technology, have them track their screen time. If students have an IOS device, it will track the usage for them. All they have to do is go into their device under settings, then tap screen time, where it’ll show them how much time they spent on specific apps. If students don’t have an IOS device, then challenge them to track their usage on piece of paper for a one week. At the end of the week, discuss as a class the information they learned about themselves, like what they use their devices for, how long they used them, and how they feel about how much time they spent on their devices. Also discuss what too much screen time can do to them and how it will affect them. Then as a class, have students come up with a plan on how to limit their usage.
Go tech-free for a day. When you unplug in the classroom, you’re showing students that you can get by just fine without any screen time. Try having tech-free Friday: Instead of having “Fun Friday,” where students are allowed to use their devices, students do not use any technology for the entire day. Instead, they can play games, go outside and learn, or do fun STEM activities. When you remove the temptation (the screens), your students won’t think about it or even miss it.
It’s inevitable that screen time will be part of your day in school. However, you can limit the effects that it can have on children by taking brain breaks in between your screen sessions. Brain breaks are meant to re-energize and refocus students’ brains. Too much screen time can cause eye strain, blurred vision, depression, anxiety, and attention problems. A brain break is an energizing (or relaxing) time out from what you are currently doing. In this case, using a brain break is a means to give students’ brains a break from screen time. You can have students partake in relaxing activities, such as classroom yoga or mindful meditation, or you can have them partake in energetic activities, such as dancing or exercising. The goal is to give students’ minds a quick break to relax and refocus from using a technological device.
In today’s society, screen time isn’t always used with an intent or purpose behind it. Children (and adults) use it for leisure or just because they are bored. Encourage more mindful screen time by having students be aware of why they are using their electronic devices. Teach them how to stop and think, “What is the purpose of being on this device”? Every time students use a device in the classroom, be sure to give them the reason behind why they are using it. For example, you can say, “We are going online today to take a 3D tour of how a cell membrane works.” This will give students an explanation of the purpose of using an electronic device. It will also help them understand that without technology, they wouldn’t have been able to see the cell membrane in that way, therefore making it a purposeful reason for using technology. However, you can also show students the difference on how you don’t always need devices in the classroom. For example, you can show them that a) you can go online and create a PowerPoint presentation, or b) you can do the same presentation on notecards. This will help students see that there is always a purpose behind your actions.
Another effective approach to limiting screen time for children is to help parents balance screen time at home. Administrators are worried that students outside of the classroom aren’t having enough social interaction and are spending too much time on their screens. With games and apps like Fortnite, Tik Tok, and YouTube, children are spending the majority of their time with an unsupervised amount of screen time. Educators can help parents learn the effects that screen time can have on their children by giving them some advice. For example, the U.S. National Library of Medicine states that too much screen time can cause sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, attention issues and obesity. They also suggest setting a timer, using chores and active activities as incentives and making technology hard to find.
Moderation is the key to screen time, not just for children, but for everyone. Adults are role models, so if a child sees you always on your device, they will not understand why they can’t be on theirs as well. Remember, the recommended amount of screen time is 1-2 hours a day for those 2 years and older. Any longer can have negative effects.
Do you have anything to add about the effects of screen time or how you handle it in your school?
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.