Thursday, January 2, 2014

Helping Parents Balance Digital Access with Screen time

There has been a great conversation going on about parents' concerns with 1:1 initiatives and helping kids manage screen time. Here are just a few of the great posts:

Scott McLeod's When Parents Want to Opt Their Children Out of Ed Tech

Patrick Larkin's A Great Conversation On The Technology Concerns Of Parents Regarding 1:1

Sandy Kendell's Parent Concerns in a 1:1 iPad Initiative

Beth Holland's The Balancing Act of Screen Time

Thanks to each of them and all the commenters for continuing this conversation. As a tech integration specialist who supports a 1:1 initiative as well as a parent of two children who are part of the 1:1 initiative, this is such an important conversation. I feel compelled to add my thoughts.

First, limiting screen time has always been a goal of ours. From the time our kids were little we used an egg timer to help them monitor how long they spent on the computer. As they outgrew this, we still set limits and monitor how much screen time they get. It is not so much about limiting screen time as it is about making sure they prioritize time for other important activities. We want our kids to be active and social. It is so easy to let screen time invade your time to do other things.

Increasingly, screen time is taking on multiple meanings. It used to just be about television. Then it was just TV and gaming. Now it encompasses productivity, creativity, and communication. In a 1:1 setting, it includes homework. This complicates how we manage screen time. For some, it has caused them to disapprove of schools providing devices, further complicating the maze of device and time management in the home.

In our own home, we regularly talk about the appropriate use of devices. Managing time is a key skill for success in the modern world. I consider this a huge priority in our house. It is hard. It is constant. It has helped our kids make good, responsible decisions about how and when they use their digital devices.

I compare this conversation to healthy eating. We need to have an ongoing discussion about how to make healthy choices. While every family makes those decisions for themselves, there are certain basic concepts that kids need to learn. Eating fruits and vegetables is healthy. Families may decide how to prioritize this, but it is important for all kids. The same is true of using digital devices. Yet many families do not have the same types of conversations about screen time that they do about diet.

While some parents have been vocal about not wanting schools to dictate when and how they have this conversation, there are far more parents who are neglecting or avoiding this conversation. It is something we all must be diligent about. Many kids already have multiple devices: phones, ipods, gaming consoles, computers, etc... If parents are not teaching their kids about how to use them responsibly, safely, effectively, and while balancing other interests and responsibilities, then we need to help introduce this conversation in the home. While I respect parents' rights to opt out of a 1:1 initiative, in some ways, I feel like they are opting out of the responsibility of teaching their kids how to operate in a digital world.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying schools are right and parents are wrong. On the contrary, I believe we have a lot to learn about how to continue this discussion so kids hear it consistently and with open minds. I also believe we have a lot to learn by having open conversations with families about how best to teach this both in school and home. Ultimately, we need to be partners in this.

We also need to provide resources to both teachers and parents to help everyone feel comfortable with guiding children through this increasingly digital world. Here is the resource we are currently using:
Please let us know how we can improve it! And thanks for helping to continue this conversation!

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