There is no denying that modern teachers have a much greater challenge with managing students than their predecessors – especially with virtual classrooms. And one of the most challenging aspects is managing screen time.
Managing screen time can be incredibly challenging, given that children of different ages and learning levels can handle different amounts of screen time successfully per day. For instance, smaller children have shorter attention spans, so it’s vital to break up the learning sessions to give their minds the stimulation it needs. Conversely, older children may stay engaged longer.
Too much screen time can harm kids whose minds are still growing and learning. Digital technology and media can impact child development by creating social comparisons, increasing peer pressure, and lowering self-esteem. Access to social media can be harmful. All of these factors contribute to increased mental health issues across the teen population in America.
In a virtual environment, screen time is necessary to achieve educational objectives. But it’s vital for educators to also recognize that inactivity and excess screen time can reduce the quality of the student’s education.
Screen Time Tips
The following tips are strategies that parents and educators can implement to reduce screen time and boost the educational experience for their children.
Implement screen time rules
The National Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time in young children. However, it is also optimal to set limits for older children. Screen time rules are designed to:
- Encourage unstructured playtime away from screens and other digital technologies.
- Create time for the family without technological interference.
- Discourage the use of digital entertainment during the time that should be spent focusing.
- Designate time limits and curfews, including no screen time at least one hour before bedtime.
- Eliminate background ‘noise’ that prevents your child from focusing.
Take frequent breaks throughout the school day
Frequent breaks are essential for younger learners, which helps them to feel recharged and ready to focus again. You can incorporate physical activity or other quick learning games to help break up the day. This strategy reduces screen time while ensuring the child stays engaged and active.
Plan trips outdoors
This may not always be an option for virtual learners, but taking field trips is a great way to reduce screen time and ensure the learner is still exposed to great information. If school-sponsored field trips aren’t an option, parents can be key to balancing the amount of indoor and outdoor time their child experiences. Taking the kids to a playground after school – or even during lunch – is one way to help them de-stress and disconnect.
With the rise in virtual learning in the last couple of years, many educators have found that assigning activities allows kids to work independently or with minimal guidance. More importantly, no screens are required. Many activities can be done with little effort and using household items, yet still provide an excellent learning opportunity!
Require written homework to be turned in electronically
Requiring the learner to complete written homework ensures they balance the time they are digitally engaged with the time they are not. For example, they can write stories, complete math problems, or work on an art project by hand, then take a photo and submit it electronically. This strategy reduces screen time, ensuring virtual students are physically engaged while learning.
Limit passive screen time
A child’s attention span often depends on their engagement with the content. And engagement can be boosted by participation. If you use interactive learning techniques, the child will likely be more interested in the topic. On the other hand, passive screen time, such as YouTube videos, can increase the likelihood that the learner will ‘check out’ and stop paying attention. Limiting passive time ensures that when children do have screen time, they make the most out of it.
Minimize after-school screen time
No matter how effectively an online educator minimizes screen time during school hours, they cannot control what happens afterward. Managing screen time requires a partnership between educators and parents. Parents must also implement rules at home that support the limited use of digital devices. And this is best done by encouraging other activities that don’t involve technology. For example, spending time outdoors is incredibly stimulating for growing minds.
Break up the day
An in-person school day is broken up by recess and lunch. These breaks provide time for learners to de-stress and wear off pent-up energy. And even class time is broken up between activities, independent learning, mini-lessons, and group work. Segmenting activities ensure kids have enough variety to keep their minds engaged and interested. A virtual school day should be no different. However, you can more effectively manage screen time by incorporating different teaching strategies, activities, and break time.
Manage your own screen time
Many parents worry about the effects of too much screen time on their children. Yet, they don’t seem concerned about their own use of these devices. But it’s vital to remember that children model the behavior they see. If you aren’t limiting your screen time, your child will not know how to regulate their behaviors.
Stick to the basics
It’s easy to get caught up in the flashiness of new technology. You might be in awe of the capabilities of your educational platform, but if it’s intimidating to you, think of how overwhelming it could be for young children. So instead of focusing on what technology can do, think about what it should do in the classroom.
Online schooling can be highly beneficial for many students. But it also brings additional challenges. Overcoming these challenges is a necessary part of ensuring academic success. And managing screen time is essential for promoting healthy learning and reducing mental health issues in the youth of this country. Virtual educators and parents can benefit from using these strategies to effectively manage screen time and create a positive learning environment.