Ever since the invention of the television there have been studies and recommendations and subtle reprimands of parents who let their kids have too much “screen time.” Remember the “latch key kid” who comes home from school 30 years ago, both parents are working and the television is just right there? Long before computers, the lure of the screen was oh so real.
The past 20 years have expanded the screen time challenges from just keeping the television off to the reality of a personal screen in the hand of every kid. Even if you haven’t given them a smart phone yet, you know it’s coming, and you are still probably fighting them to keep your iPad in your own hands!
So the mantra has been “limit screen time” so you can be responsible and align with the research showing that too much time on computers or watching TV is linked eye strain, headaches, trouble sleeping and a myriad of other challenges.
Limit screen time? In 2020? Good luck!
Ironically just as the world was shutting down and schools were being forced to move online, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) was just putting the final touches on a massive new research project that was once again sounding the alarm when it comes to exposing children, especially young ones, to more screen time.
Now we are in what seems like a no-win reality where all of our kids, from Kindergarten through college, have little option but to have massively increased screen time.
So what can we do?
How do we hold classes and yet provide opportunities for learning that don’t require our kids and teachers to be on a zoom call for 6 or more hours a day?
EdWeek published a great article this week full of resources and ideas for maximizing learning while minimizing screen time. Check out the full article called Teacher Tips: How to Reduce Screen Time When School Is Online.
Amidst their advice, which is really good, the one we liked the most was “Taking a Don’t Stress Approach.” This pretty much boils down to the simple truth that there are a lot of big challenges right now, and worrying about too much screen time might need to take a back seat to solving some of the larger challenges. This issue will still be there and we encourage you to get ideas and be creative, but ultimately it shouldn’t be at the top of your list.
Crises in life have a way of rearranging our priorities, at least for a little while. Though we will get past this current crisis, the chances that something else could arise that forces schools back online isn’t too difficult to imagine. But for now, just know there are bigger concerns you have to solve. It’s okay to focus on them and let this screen time worry move down the list a bit.
If you are ready to get some more ideas, not because you are stressing of course, you should definitely read EdWeek's article. They also offered a list outside their own ideas that points you to other resources that may be worth checking out. We’ve duplicated that for you here:
- Screen-free activities developed by English teacher-blogger Betsy Potash
- 40 off-screen activities developed by Virginia 5th grade teacher Wade Whitehead
- Wide Open School, curated supplemental resources for remote learning, includes many screen-free activities
- Virtual learning resources, including many off-screen, by Pennsylvania teacher A.J. Juliani
- Buck Institute for Education PBL Works offers a free e-book that lists offline projects
- Tips from the National Institute for STEM Education
- Lots of ideas from teachers in Twitter threads here and here.
Keep going and keep growing!