Maximizing Screen Time:
How to make screen time learning time
Screens, screens everywhere!
As most parents have discovered, between Zoom school for kids and working from home for adults, the pandemic has meant way more screen time for everyone.
But will this increased time in front of technology inevitably lead to negative outcomes?
Not necessarily! Pediatrics professor Jenny Radesky, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 screen-time recommendations, wants parents to recognize the aspects of media use that can be both positive and meaningful for families.
“People are using screens to check on neighbors, organize help and talk to family members and friends they so dearly miss,” she writes.
Furthermore, there are ways that parents can make screen time work for the benefit of their children’s growth and development.
First, it is important to ensure screens do not replace physical activity, imaginative play, reading and social interaction. Tulsa City-County Library has compiled many tools to help ease the stress of trying to make time off screens impactful. Library staff are experts at putting together bundles of books for kids based on their interest and reading levels. Take and Make kits make art super simple: Grab a kit that contains everything you need to craft some fun! “Kids Read Curious World” (tulsalibrary.org/kids-read-curious-world) is another resource designed to take your children on different topical adventures every month. Past themes included knights and castles, wolves, maps, and outer space!
Next, engaging with children while they use tablets or watch TV can make the experience more educational — ask questions, make predictions and celebrate with your child when they have a gaming success.
The five ways to Build A Reader (talk, sing, read, write and play) are perfect ways for you to engage your kids during screen time:
Talking builds phonological awareness, vocabulary, language awareness, background knowledge and emotional security and trust. When we talk we build up what our children understand as they learn to read.
Activity: As you watch TV together, ask questions about the show you’re watching. What color is a character’s car? What do you think will happen next? Then pause and wait for your child to think through a response. Talk about what you see on the screen: “That elephant feels sad. What do you think it needs”?
Singing breaks down words into syllables and helps kids learn that words are made up of smaller parts. It provides that rich stimulation for their brains through repetition. Additionally, it teaches listening skills, something that you need when learning to read.
Activity: Sing songs to remember details and instructions, express how you feel or even just to pass the time! You can use the theme song of their favorite show as the tune — it’s probably stuck in your head anyways.
Reading is the best thing you can do to richly stimulate your child’s brain. Books are fun and full of adventure. Reading is “caught not taught” and seeing reading in a positive light will increase your child’s desire to read.
Activity: Find books that add to what your child is already interested in! Many books feature familiar movies, games and shows. You could also find books that discuss similar topics- do a certain set of sisters thaw frozen hearts around your house? Read books about snow! Does your child prefer shows staring puppies? Your library could find some books with similar dog breeds- you can observe how similar they are to characters your child loves!
Writing helps little ones understand that print has meaning, while supporting fine motor skills.
Activity: Draw characters, and their names as they watch the show, or have your child write letters to the characters about how they would have solved the problem!
Play stimulates the brain through gross and fine motor skills and the use of imagination. Play builds social skills, communication skills and increases the bond between the child and caregiver.
Activity: Pretend to be characters from your favorite movie or show once the TV is off. Imagine you are on an adventure you’ve seen on the screen, and then imagine your own adventure! This builds both narrative skills and your relationship with your child through lots of laughter and fun!
Remember — it’s not as important what you watch as it is how you watch, when it comes to engaging your child throughout screen time. Watching with your child is key to making screen time an enriching experience.
Finally, practice safe tech. Help kids set their own boundaries revolving around tech time, and know what they’re watching and playing, and with whom. Talk about the dangers they could encounter online and how that is handled within your family values.