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Screentime has changed the way we learn, teach, and Parent.

I am a teacher, a parent, and an optimist.

I believe technology, like any other tool, is best used in a specific time and place. I know what it can allow us to do.  And I see how easily it can take over.

There is no question: both parents and teachers play an important role in modeling and mentoring when it comes to screentime. As a teacher and a parent, I have empathy.

I understand that schools feel pressure to offer 1:1 programs or class websites, but do not always recognize the frustrating impact this can have on students and families who must manage the at-home impacts of such requests.

I understand how hard it is to tell your 11-year-old he won’t get a smartphone just because “everyone else has one.”

I understand why schools turn to programs like Google classrooms or technology-based curricula to “simplify” teacher workloads.

I value the idea of assuming we are starting with best intentions, and replacing judgment with curiosity. Parenting is hard enough already.

One parent described this challenge as "trying to hold back a tsunami with sandbags."

There is no "one-size-fits-all" answer, but we can and must start the conversation somewhere.

Stop Fighting. Find Balance.

Why This Matters:

Fact #1: Average age of of onset for "regular" screen use has gone from age 4 years old to 4 *months* old. 

It's no question that our use of screens has increased dramatically. What is particularly concerning, however, is the earlier exposure of  "screentime" to very young children. "Child development is relational": time spent on screens is time *not* spent building critical skills.

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Fact #2: Language is the single-best predictor of school achievement. 

Children who are exposed to the regular back-and-forth flow of verbal conversation develop strong language skills. When adults are distracted or interrupted by incoming texts, a quick notification "ding", or the pull of social media, children's language development suffers. Simply put, being interrupted interrupts your child's learning. 

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Fact #3: For children age 0 to 5, emergency room visits increased 10% between 2005-2012.

A clever Yale economics student noticed something as AT&T rolled out their 3G cellular network across the country. As smartphone ownership rose, rates of ER visits for children birth to 5 years old increased.

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Fact #4: Increased Parental use of smartphones in front of children increased how harshly they responded to them.

In 2013, Dr. Jenny Radesky and other researchers collected observational data about parental interactions with children when smartphones were present.  This groundbreaking study was the first to explore how parents used smartphones around their children and helped launch further studies looking at this relationship.

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Fact #5: On average, adults check their smartphones anywhere from 80-200 times per day.

We are rarely without our smartphones. Even when no notifications pulls us to respond, we reach for our phones in moments of boredom, or sometimes, just compulsively because we are so used to checking them. While there are some easy solutions (turning off notifications, for example), increasing awareness of when and why we are pulled to our devices is critical towards making healthy changes.

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Fact #6: Monkey See, monkey do. At only 42 minutes old, newborn babies can imitate an adult sticking out her tongue.

Researchers at the University of Washington's I-Labs demonstrate how kids learn by imitation: "Where attention goes, energy flows." Many of us know how appealing our phones seem to children: it's no wonder, since they are interested in what we are interested in. And adults are modeling a fascination with screens.

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Fact #7: Boredom is good. paradoxically, it requires effort. screens are easy. 

It is in the most boring moments of downtime that creative thinking happens. Psychologists are concerned that spending so many hours on screens has trained children's brains to crave experiences that more closely match the fast pace of video games. 

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Fact #8: two-thirds of parents are concerned about how much screentime their teen has. but only 57% of parents set limits on screentime.

Teens get a bad rap for being on their phones too much. And there are definitely areas for improvement. But parents struggle with setting limits for their own screen use, which may explain while only a little more than half of parents set limits for their teen's use of screens.

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