Technology has transformed nearly all facets of life, including education. While desks and blackboards can still be found in the classroom, technology has become more and more influential in regard to how students learn. Many teachers now employ tablets and other devices to help students better understand their coursework. Devices can make for useful learning tools, but when does screen time cross over from useful learning tool to something that’s potentially harmful to students’ overall health?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has produced age-specific guidelines that can help parents determine if their school-aged children are spending too much time staring at screens.
Children between two and five years of age
Parents should limit screen time for this age group to one hour per day of high-quality programs. The AAP advises parents to co-view with children in this age group so they can help kids understand what they’re watching and how it applies to the world around them.
Children ages six and older
The AAP does not provide specific information regarding how many hours children ages six and older should use screen media. However, the AAP advises parents to make sure such media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. In addition to following AAP recommendations about screen time as closely as possible, parents can take steps to ensure their children are not spending too much time using their devices.
• Promote extracurricular activities. Urging children to participate in extracurricular activities that do not employ screen media, such as sports, music lessons and academic clubs, can be a great way to get kids to put down their devices and engage in in-person interactions with their peers.
• Establish no-device hours at home. The AAP recommends that parents designate certain times of the day as media-free times for the whole family, and not just children. Parents can put down their smartphones and tablets and engage with their children without the television on. In addition, make sure devices don’t make it to the dinner table, as nightly, device-free dinners together can help families build strong bonds.
• Establish media-free zones. Designate certain areas of the home, such as the kitchen and dining room, as device-free zones. Keep devices out of bedrooms unless children need them to do their homework.
Devices in the classroom can help young students fulfill their academic potential. Parents can govern their use outside the classroom by adhering to some simple strategies.