Balancing Our Screen Time

I was inspired to tackle this rather controversial topic of after reading the following CNN article.

One of the most important New Year’s resolutions every parent should make for 2019 is to ensure everyone in the family spends less time with screens. Since last year, a number of new studies have confirmed that the effects of technology on kids are even worse than many parents feared.

As a parent and primary classroom I do recognize the importance of being present in our kids lives and I do need to put my phone away more often.

How much screen time is OK for students?

We all know that kids are spending more time with screen media than ever before. But there really is no magic number that’s just right. What’s more important is the quality and not just the time. It is also important how it fits into your family’s lifestyle, and how you engage your kids with it. I am sure that most parents are familiar with this scenario and at one time or another have asked themselves, “Is all this technology good for my child?”

The answer is, Yes, it can be if there is balance.

As screens and Information and Communication Technology in classrooms is novel phenomena and the recommendations are a-changing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) used to recommend no TV or screen use for the first two years, limiting screen time to two hours per day after that, and creating an “electronic media free” environment in children’s bedrooms. They now recognize that not all screen time is created equal. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are multipurpose devices that can be used for lots of purposes. Designating their use simply as “screen time” can miss some significant variations.

The AAP ‘s new guidelines, released in October 2016, allow for some screen time for children younger than 2 and emphasize parental involvement for all kids. In a nutshell:

  • Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting for children younger than 18 months.
  • If you choose to introduce media to children 18-24 months, find high-quality programming and co-view and co-play.
  • Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children age 2 to 5 years.
  • Create a family media plan with consistent rules and enforce them for older kids.

The reality is that most families will go through periods of heavy and light media use, but, so long as there’s a balance, kids should be just fine.


What are the implications then for learning and especially the use of technology in the classroom? For myself the most important question is :

Are some types of screen time better than others?

Short answer: “Yes they are”

The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens identifies four main categories of screen time.

  • Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
  • Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: video-chatting and using social media
  • ​Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music

As an educator I am interested in the last two categories.

What New Research on Kids’ Media Use Means for Teachers

In my class I can make pedagogical arrangements to embed and integrate technology so that it either improves or redefines learning.

And, although there’s nothing wrong with a little mindless entertainment, we can maximize our students screen time if you consider the 4 C’s – 21st Century Skill for Success.

Communication.  lets our students learn how to best convey their ideas

Critical thinking.  is all about posing and solving problems

Creativity.  teaches our students to think outside the box

Collaboration.  shows our students how to work together to achieve a common goal

Here at ISM we use to introduce Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety to our students in the primary School.

Here are some Common Sense guidelines

  • Give kids meaningful things to do on their devices.
    • Capitalize on tools that promote higher-order thinking and learning.
    • Look for platforms that encourage digital creation, online collaboration, communication beyond the classroom, and new perspectives for critical thinking.
  • Set appropriate boundaries for in-class device use.
    • Find the right middle ground for you and your students, and make these boundaries clear.
    • Consider the needs of your classroom as a whole, and differentiate boundaries for students with specific learning differences.
  • Build lessons that have a predictable flow of tech and nontech activities.
    • Incorporate both screen-based and traditional activities in your daily lessons.
    • Consider taking “tech breaks” — a time when students can check their devices.
    • Or if you’re using tech a lot, make sure to build in device-free activities.

Together we can create a balanced Media Plan that will benefit learning at school and Family time home

Family Media Plan

Media should work for you & work within your family values & parenting style. When media is used thoughtfully & appropriately, media can enhance daily life. But when used inappropriately or without thought, media can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play, exercise, unplugged downtime & sleep.

By creating a Personalized Family Media Use Plan, you can be aware of when you are using media to achieve your purpose. This requires parents & users to think about what they want those purposes to be. The tool below will help you to think about media & create goals & rules that are in line with your family’s values.

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