Balancing Distraction with Exploration in Children’sDigital Media Use
Kids today are spending more time than ever before on digital media. Between remote learning, tech in the classroom, and smartphones, it’s a challenge to convince children that excessive time online can be distracting.
Parents need to help their children find the right balance between productive screen time and focusing on offline tasks and activities that encourage their growth and well-being.
How Technology Can Benefit Your Child
While technology has its challenges, it's an important tool in your child’s education. For example, remote applications have allowed students to continue learning even locked at home during quarantine.
In the classroom, technology can also be useful in knowledge acquisition. Students learn important skills that can help them in the workplace, such as digital literacy. It encompasses everything from searching for valuable information online, to navigating emails and social media applications.
As technology progresses, students need to be able to adapt to whatever new devices come along. Smartphones and tablets, for example, have largely replaced computers and laptops. Digital literacy helps kids adapt and stay safe as these tools change.
Technology also helps teachers create digital lessons to broaden their student’s critical thinking skills. Kids can access cutting-edge information and current events in real-time.
Finally, assistive technology for students with disabilities helps these students gain more independence in their studies. This allows them to be included in mainstream classrooms.
Some examples of assistive technology include:
Augmentative and alternative communication apps and software that help students who struggle with speech.
Enhanced learning applications.
Memory and organization tech tools like graphic organizers.
Tools that help children with sensory challenges or hearing impairments.
When Screen Time Becomes a Problem
While these are the helpful aspects of technology, we all know that kids can easily become distracted by their screens. Using an online tool for learning is one thing. However, if children are reluctant to leave an app or are frequently rewarded with screen time, it can become a problem.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, too much screen time can cause eye problems for your child, including nearsightedness, eye fatigue, and dry or irritated eyes. It can also lead to problems focusing on distance and interrupt your child’s sleep rhythms. Keep a careful watch for these issues.
How else do you know if your child is getting too much screen time? Some signs include:
Your child has dilated eyes or new vision issues.
Your child seems overstimulated much of the time. Sudden bouts of aggression, crying, irritability, meltdowns, and other behavioral issues, especially after you notice an increase in screen time, are a red flag.
Your child would rather be on their device than with friends. They might also overreact if you take away the device.
Your child is more engaged in their device than engaging with others.
Teaching Your Child Proper Use of Screen Time
Many of these problems can be overcome by teaching your child how to use technology safely and within healthy boundaries. The first step in this process is understanding your child’s limitations. If putting a screen in the hands of your child means you won’t see them again the rest of the night, you should delay getting them a phone until they can gain better time management skills.
Meanwhile, there are options you can take to help your child:
Parental controls allow you to set what websites they can and cannot visit to keep them safe.
Some devices allow you to set timers for spending time online.
Be observant of your child’s activities to avoid dangers as well as content that parental controls miss.
If your child is on your device, be careful that they do not make purchases, share content, or change settings that can get you in trouble.
Finally, be sure to teach your children how to behave on social media. Kids sometimes get the message that they can say or do things online that they wouldn’t do in person. Teach them that all people deserve respect. If they can’t say something to a person’s face, they should not say or post it at all.
Ways to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time
When your child is young, it’ll be easier to keep an eye on their online activity since they’ll most likely share devices with the rest of the family. As your child ages and transitions into a big kid’s room, however, they’ll likely have a computer or tablet of their own.
To appease this growth, you can dedicate space for them to access online devices, ready, play, and study. Set up a desk with a computer for schoolwork. You should also set up an appealing and cozy book nook to tempt your child away from the screens and encourage reading.
When your children must do online homework or access school remotely, virtual learning is easier when you create a daily schedule of work time. Just like their school day is structured with specific hours for learning, lunch, and recreation, you should also plan their at-home screen time the same way.
Teach your children to break up their screen time with breaks, stretches, outdoor time, snacks, and lunchtime. This will create long-term habits that can benefit them as they grow into adults.
Technology is an amazing tool that helps our children explore, learn, and express their creativity. However, without proper habits, it can be a distraction that has harmful effects on their brain, body, and relationships. Use these tips to teach your child to balance screen time with other important interactions.
Learn More By Visiting the Cyberwise “Balance” Hub: https://www.cyberwise.org/balance-hub
Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.