Australian parents have nominated excessive screen time as their biggest health concern for children, according to a nation-wide poll by The Royal Children’s Hospital. However, I believe this concern may be slightly misguided and that quality screen time can actually make kids smarter.
Of the 2,000 parents that were polled, 56% ranked excessive screen time as their biggest health concern. Dr Anthea Rhodes, Director of the Australian Child Health Poll, explained the reason for this is the lack of support programmes available for parents on how to manage it.
Australian Government Guidelines recommend a daily limit of two hours screen time for entertainment purposes to prevent health problems such as poor posture, poor eyesight, sleep problems, social problems and obesity. However, a study released by the Cancer Council and National Heart Foundation earlier this year found that around 77% of students are plugged in for more than a couple of hours per day. While children are clearly spending more time on screens than ever before, it’s not all bad.
Primary and secondary school teachers around the world, who were previously employing a ‘top-down’ and ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to teaching, are recognising the possibilities afforded by technology. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that computers, tablets, and smart phones can help kids to learn new things spontaneously and in multiple modalities.
In the article How Technology Makes Kids Smarter, Pat Wyman, college professor and best-selling author is quoted saying, “Twenty-first century learners use all three learning modalities as they interact with technology. The fact that students can learn by reading, watching videos or listening to audio enables them to learn in the way that suits them best, and technology allows students to become better critical thinkers as they put all the data they learn together for school projects.”
Information garnered from textbooks, teachers and adults is limited by cost, time and experience whereas the technology of the Internet is unlimited.
As a parent with a dyslexic child, I’ve found that my son can use the power of online video and audio to learn about things he’s interested in, or to do research for school assignments. This suits him much more than trying to get this knowledge through reading, which is really difficult for him. Considering our kids use screens for many different purposes across many facets of their young and developing lives, it’s important we consider the benefits this technology brings, along with the risks. I think there needs to be a more balanced conversation about screen time and its impact on our kids.
With screens becoming an ever increasing part of everyone’s lives, we need to harness them for good, not evil.
Comment below on your experience, good or bad, with your kids and screen time.
Australian Child Health Poll – Top ten child health problems – https://www.childhealthpoll.org.au/
The ‘Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens’ – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/the-common-sense-census-media-use-by-tweens-and-teens
Do smart devices make smart kids? – http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-18105992
How Technology Makes Kids Smarter – http://www.howtolearn.com/2013/11/how-technology-makes-kids-smarter/
Increase in teenagers’ screen use a new threat to long-term health – http://www.cancer.org.au/news/media-releases/increase-in-teenagers-screen-use-a-new-threat-to-long-term-health.html