Active screen time vs. passive screen time
When introducing children to technology, it is important to distinguish between passive screen time and active screen time. Passive screen time uses technology as a babysitter to keep children occupied. This could include placing children in front of a television to watch movies by themselves or giving them a tablet to watch videos or scroll through social media. Passive screen time has little, if any, benefit for children and should be limited.
Active screen time uses technology as an educational tool and can help to accelerate learning. Active screen time includes online learning games and apps that teach children reading and phonics skills, video games that encourage critical thinking and online platforms that allow children to create their own designs and collaborate with others. Sometimes, traditionally passive screen time activities can be transformed into active learning opportunities if parents are engaged in the experience. For example, parents can watch a movie with their children and pause occasionally to discuss elements such as character development, plot, and theme. This uses the movie as a tool that teaches children to think critically about stories and the messages they promote. Parents should ensure that their children spend most of their screen time engaged in active learning activities that help them grow as learners.
Introducing children to technology
While technology can be beneficial for children, it is important to ensure that the amount of screen time is balanced with other activities. Toddlers can be introduced to technology with fun learning videos or interactive story apps. Parents should sit with their children and model engaging with the screen, touching objects, and singing along to learning songs. This helps to make technology time a social event for the toddler while teaching them how to properly interact with the devices.
Preschool aged children can use educational websites and apps to increase their love of learning and prepare them for the classroom. There are many learning apps that use games to teach children letters, numbers, colors and basic phonics rules. There are other apps that read books aloud to children and allow them to answer questions and practice skills such as summarizing and retelling the plot of the story. These types of technology teach children that learning is fun and gets them excited to start school.
Once children are in school, technology can be used at home to supplement their learning. Children in elementary school can use technology to research videos on topics they learn in school or to play games that increase their mathematical fluency, reading comprehension or typing skills. They can also join online groups or classes to meet other children who share their interests and hobbies. Middle school and high school students can use technology to take online classes and learn languages and skills that might not be offered at school. They can use apps to learn how to play instruments or create digital artwork. They can even play video games that encourage players to use problem solving and critical thinking skills. With proper supervision, technology can help children to keep learning long after the school day has ended.
No matter what age group children fall under, parents need to supervise their children while they are online and provide them with clear guidelines and boundaries. Parents can provide their children with a list of safe websites they are allowed to visit and require their children to ask for permission before visiting any websites that are not on the list. They should also set time limits for using electronic devices such as tablets and cell phones. In general, toddlers can spend up to an hour a day on technology, preschoolers can spend up to two hours, while elementary aged children should spend no more than three hours a day using technology. Once children have reached their daily limits, parents can put the electronic devices away and guide them towards other activities such as reading, playing outside or spending time together as a family. Every family is different, but parents should try to make sure that their children maintain a balance between screen time and time spent socializing with family and friends.
The role of technology in the classroom
Many educators have found that technology can increase student engagement in the classroom. Whether it’s a program that reinforces match skills or a secure online pen pal service for children, technology can help motivate students to learn in schools. Teachers should take advantage of this interest and use it to help prepare their students for careers where they will be required to be proficient with technology. Many schools offer courses in typing, coding, and graphic design to help prepare students to utilize technology in their future careers. Educators should also use class time to teach lessons on internet safety and privacy as well as lessons on how to sift through online content to find sources that are reputable and trustworthy.
Parents and teachers should not be afraid to introduce children to technology. When used correctly, technology can help children to enjoy learning and allow them to socialize with family members and other children who share their interests, while preparing them to successfully navigate an increasingly technologically advanced world.