Increasingly, parents and teachers are asking me “How much screen time is OK?” And honestly, I do not have an answer to that question. Maybe we should ask, “What is the quality of media being accessed, how does it fit with family routine, and how do parents, and responsible adults, engage with devices and media?”

The ‘issue’ of screen time is one that has fascinated me for a while – and when I say fascinated, I mean it has challenged me and pushed me in different directions. It is something that teachers and parents express concern over, about both themselves and their children. It isn’t just the younger generation that appears to be constantly attached to their devices, and with the latest update to Apple’s iOS, we now have a Screen Time application. I know from my own experience, I am taking measures to help reduce my screen time.

As I mentioned earlier, I think we are asking the wrong question. Something we should all be aware of is: Not all screen time is equal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to help their children develop healthy media use habits early on. Devices such as iPhones and iPads have many purposes and are multi-functioning and, therefore, labelling their use as ‘Screen-Time’ might be misleading. When we consider more and more schools are moving towards BYOD or 1:1 initiatives and are ‘flipping the classroom,’ we must also take into account that not all screen time is screen time. 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

It is arguable that there is no difference at all, and that screen-time is simply that, but we must consider that eating an apple diet does not necessarily make us healthier nor does drinking milk every day ensure that we will never break a bone. With that said, I recommend striking a balance between the above activities and engaging in dialogue with your son or daughter in hopes of fostering a healthy relationship regarding online activities.

To finish, it is both unrealistic and unobtainable in today’s learning environments to think technology is going away. It is the opposite direction in which schools seem to have moved. With that in mind, more needs to be done. We [educators, parents, teachers, leaders] need to educate children to develop a healthy relationship with devices, the Internet and Insta-world.

What are your thoughts?

As always, I would love to hear from you; let’s keep the conversation going.

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