This post is an excerpt from our Digital Citizenship Conference event in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students in the digital world. All of the content from the Digital Citizenship Conference is available as a Virtual Replay Ticket.
Here are the online safety experts who contributed to this blog:
Here are some key takeaways from the Productive Screen Time for Kids panel:
- Discourage multitasking
- Teach by example
- Find teachable moments where you can
- Realize that every kid is different
For kids and adults alike, “multitasking” is tantamount to procrastinating. Instead encourage kids to make the most of their productive screen time and then allow breaks for social screen time, etc.
We all need breaks from the screen. Set a good example by taking breaks yourself to get some exercise. Put away your own phone when you’re having dinner or watching a movie as a family.
Not every conversation about healthy and productive screen time for kids has to be a scheduled, formal discussion. Talk about it whenever the moment arises.
Before setting strict limits for how much screen time your child can have or which apps you’ll allow, try and give them the chance to show you how much supervision they need (or don’t).
Is there an app or technology that helps kids zero in and shut out the noise when they are multitasking and have 12 things going on at once?
Talk openly and honestly about how your family spends time online. —Mercedes Samudio
I use a productivity app called Rescue Time. You put it on you desktop or any of your devices, and it aggregates and collects data on how you spend your time online and on your computer. This is cool for adults, too, because we tend to multitask when we are online, with multiple tabs open and all of this stuff.
It teaches us where we are, so it opens up a dialogue where we can start talking to kids about, “Hey, you told me you were doing homework, but you were on Twitter or Facebook or Snapchat for two hours.” Maybe then you can help them find a better balance, because you have the actual physical data of how much they are using. It gives you a lot of information for your child and yourself so you can talk openly and honestly about how your family spends time online. —Mercedes Samudio
What are other ways we can encourage productive screen time for kids?
For teens, nothing good happens online after 9 p.m. —Lisa Larson
For me, I think my brain went in a totally different direction with productivity and screen time for kids, because I think it is very hard for the teenagers when there is girl drama and they want to get it cleared, so it becomes very hard for them to put it away. They do not really have the art of self-soothing that they should have. I remember being in college and hearing some kind of phrase like “Nothing good happens after midnight.” In my opinion, for teens, nothing good happens online after 9 p.m. So I do believe in more boundaries at nighttime. Yes, the discussions are great, but if you are an insecure 12-year-old and you think everybody hates you, sometimes you can help them just by setting boundaries to protect their emotional health and say, “at 9 the devices are going to go away”. Then they can learn that self-soothing that comes from saying, I have to put it aside until tomorrow. —Lisa Larson
It’s about modeling behavior. Kids watch us multitask and over-schedule ourselves, and then they do the same things. How many of us take a break just to sit down and eat lunch? Do that. Go out and sit down with the kids and eat lunch. Show them, hey, I eat lunch too. As parents, eat dinner with your kids. Some people think that isn’t that big of a parenting skill, but it is. If you don’t eat together then kids begin to think it’s okay to skip meals, to do a quick McDonald’s run or a quick protein thing and keep going. So for me, when we are talking about teaching productivity, I think it really does start with us taking stock of ourselves and saying, “Okay, how do I make the best use of my own time?” —Mercedes Samudio
Do you have any recommendations for when it is age-appropriate to start using screens?
We can teach students from the start how to learn technology correctly and find a better balance. —Hayley Kaplan
I heard somebody say that sometimes we throw the technology to our kids because it is a babysitter. Kids are getting iPads at age two. But at this point they need to be learning from us, and they need to learn how to communicate. In fact, a lot of us as adults are forgetting how to communicate because we are right there in this digital age. But one of the greatest opportunities for kids that I see is that they can learn to do it right. We can teach them from the start how to learn technology correctly and find a better balance. —Hayley Kaplan
It’s great to do your research on commonly accepted screen time standards. —Christina Flemming
I err on the side of making it situational and dependent on the child. It needs to be individualized. My four-year-old is highly sensorial and TV will calm her down instantly, but my two-year-old it is a different story. Every child is different, and I think you have to take that into consideration before deciding. It’s great to do your research on commonly accepted standards, but when it comes down to it, I think you really have to focus in on what works in your situation. —Christina Fleming
There is a lot of research now looking at devices for children earlier than five years old. They are starting to see that verbalization is coming later in life, and it is creating a pattern of giving toddlers a device to calm them any time there’s a tantrum. So my personal preference from a developmental aspect is having it be more of an entertainment tool. It can’t replace little kids learning self-soothing skills and resiliency. —Lisa Larson
What are some specific examples of families encouraging positive and productive screen time for kids?
From an educator perspective, in terms of screen time for kids, what could be really productive is to learn keyboarding at a much younger age. If they don’t know how to use the keyboard—and not just keyboarding, but dragging, dropping, all of these things—they will be at a deficit. There are all sorts of really clever keyboarding programs, so that’s something productive parents could to do to give their kids an advantage. —Audience Member
In my house, my son, my daughter, and my husband all Minecraft together, and to me that can be productive screen time for kids. My husband will say to my daughter, “How do you build so-and-so? What do you use this for?” It becomes this whole thing and they sit there and have these conversations and build these things, and they will put it up on the TV through the AirPlay and say, “Look what I made.” So I think there can be productive social time as well. —Audience Member
I teach in the science area, and we have a great time doing coding. You can bring that home as well, and it lets the kids see the benefit of the learning. I agree that Minecraft is also one of those ideas, and then there are other ones such as Scratch., which is literally about teaching you how to code yourself. There are a lot of good resources out there for parents who want to encourage productive and positive screen time for kids. —Audience Member