Despite telling myself last week that I would only write one post about lockdown, here I am on my second! Although I think this is applicable when not in the midst of a global pandemic.
Like the majority of modern parents, the issue of my children’s screen time is never far from my mind. How much is too long? What should they be watching? Should we be controlling it more? I have to say that we’ve always been pretty relaxed with our two children. Not enforcing time limits as such but informally making sure they have good breaks, and a good balance with other activities.
What’s the issue?
We are definitely guilty of allowing screens so that we can have some time to ourselves, but should we be feeling guilty? There are plenty of articles about the negative impacts of screen time, and suggestions for activities away from them. But for us as a family, particularly in recent months, it just doesn’t fit with how we live our lives. Both my husband and I use laptops in our work and use our phones a lot, for taking photos or browsing the internet. Our children are proficient at using tablets and my son is a big fan of video games. Screens have been, and will be, a big part of our lives, so are they really all that bad?
I decided to look into it and found that there are plenty of studies and reports on how screen time can actually be a positive experience, helping your child to learn new skills and boosting their learning.
When you look at the concepts of certain games, they have been designed to encourage questioning and thinking, as well as interaction. Take Minecraft for example, there’s logic as well as creativity involved, plus plenty of opportunities for coding. There’s a wealth of coding resources out there, and even if your little one isn’t destined to be a programmer, understanding the basics of structure and detail will be helpful to everyone. Coding and other creation programmes are great for building your child’s self-esteem too, as they are learning something new and there are opportunities to share this learning with others. Some of my son’s homeschooling lessons have been on using Scratch, so getting some extra practice in really pays off. You could also look at your child using devices such as a Raspberry Pi to create their own games.
For children of all ages, there are lots of apps available that can help them with educational concepts, such as practicing their times tables or phonics. We’ve found these invaluable when trying to juggle the demands of homeschooling two children at the same time! Often your child won’t notice that what they’re playing on is actually ‘learning’.
What can we do as parents?
It is important to engage with your child, even if they are seemingly glued to a screen. You can ask them to show you what they have built, or describe what they have been doing. Trust me, even if you don’t know the first thing about games, you’ll be able to nod along! You can take this one step further and use screens together, such as research for a piece of homework or learning more about a particular topic. Doing these activities together gives you a great chance to teach your child about internet safety too.
As much as you don’t like it, or that ‘it wasn’t like that when we were kids’, screen time can actually be a calming, wind down activity for children. It’s about creating balance with the other activities that they are participating in, whether that’s educational or completely screen free.
Photo by Nicolas Gonzalez on Unsplash