As technology becomes more widespread both in and outside of homes, so does the discussion about screen time for children. Researchers, scientists, parents, and teachers have all contributed to the discussion, posing both its benefits and challenges. Sara DeWitt, a longtime team member of PBS Kids, has focused her work on, “harnessing the power of technology as a positive in children’s lives.” In her TedTalk, 3 Fears About Screen Time and Why They’re Not True, DeWitt uses her experience to dive into the discussion and unravel the most common fears about the relationship between technology and our children.
Through her experience, DeWitt has found that some of our greatest fears about screen time for kids are actually insights into how we can use technology as a tool that fosters creativity, relationship building, and emotional growth.
The three fears
In reference to her talk, DeWitt sites that, “Over 40 percent of Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up every morning.” The tension between our growing “need” for our devices and our anxiety about it negatively affecting our children has come to an all-time high. Re-evaluating these fears and worries is the first step in teaching and modeling a healthy relationship with technology for our children.
- Fear number one: “Screens are passive. They keep our kids from getting up and moving.”
We’ve all heard about (or perhaps experienced) children spending hours staring numbly into a television, computer, or other device. But, our children’s relationship with technology doesn’t have to be a passive one. In fact, DeWitt’s research found that the more interactive kids are with educational based games, the more they remembered, and the better they could connect with similar events or experiences in real time. PBS’s, Wild Kratts, teaches children about animals and their environments, while Prongo offers a variety of games separated by age group and subject.
- Fear number two: “Playing games on these screens is just a waste of time. It distracts them from their education”
A partnership between UCLA and PBS’ producer, WGHB found that interactive games and tests not only teach children key skills, but could also be programmed to predict a child’s standardized score based on their game or activity performance. This means that the possibilities to further understand a child’s cognitive learning patterns are endless. What if the future of online gaming isn’t a distraction, but could possibly provide an insight into better testing methods, or individualized learning? When the power of technology is harnessed with the importance of education and learning, the future looks bright.
- Fear number three: “These screens are isolating me from my child.”
We want our children to be able to connect and interact with others, especially their parents. Devices don’t have to be isolating, in fact, there are many different ways to use technology together as a family. Consider watching a television show or movie with your children while taking time afterwards to discuss themes, feelings, likes and dislikes. Engaging in conversation is what makes screen time a holistic and educational experience for the whole family.
Learning how to engage in screen time with our children, and teaching them best practices can be difficult and challenging. When it comes to children and screen time, what works best for you? Share your stories with us!
Erin Navaro, an Ohio native, is a young professional who works with older adults, supporting them in every stage of their care. Curious about the world, Erin has lived and worked in Tanzania and India, finding inspiration from the people and cultures that have hosted her along the way. To see what’s next, connect with her on LinkedIn.