Elliot loves a screen. In fact all the boys do. For the older ones it is homework, study, discovery as well as entertainment. For the toddlers it is that big thing on the wall or the little oblong often held by adults who seem to have permanently bent necks.
There is a lot of cur-fuffle about screens. Are they bad for children or not? Some naysayers say that the time on a screen is the key risk for kids. Surely it is the content and activity on the screen that matters.
The danger is to let fear or ignorance lead to a swing against the screen. We must be positive about technology. It is wonderful.
Close-eye on content
It’s not really about the screen at all. It is about the content. Schools use screens with educational content as a core teaching aid. The use is supervised throughout.
For our family the rule is no devices in bedrooms or any private areas of the house. There is a public homework space.
The way parents are spoken to about screen time can be negative. A local nursery said to parents in a leaflet “ Too much screen time can be damaging”. A strong, clear assertion but is it that simple? NO IT IS NOT.
As the nursery was told by an informed parent, “ if a toddler is left with a device to watch a series of Peppa Pig that is a very different experience to if they are using it to play colour matching, shape games, doing puzzles or learning how the universe was created” . In the Peppa Pig scenario we have a passive child. Devices should help a child think and interact.
Shut eye to content
The problem arises when adults do not keep a close eye on the content. We can naively trust the platform delivering the content.
A parent has been heard to say of their careful supervision, ‘Oh YouTube Kids is all I let them see’ … But how much content on YouTube is about unboxing or should I say selling them goods, or has embedded ads. Keep close to your heart that You Tube is a rabbit hole with ad funding hidden in unexpected places….deep into a video or way down the stream. Checking the first minute may simply not be enough.
If ever there is a demand for something the kids have never mentioned nor would have seen we take a hard look at what the boys were left watching on a tablet.
Children can use tablets to support learning to read. A CBeebies App has several great interactive tools supporting early reading and number work linked to their TV shows.
Professor Sonia Livingstone who is a current researcher on screen time concludes
“Screen Time is an obsolete concept”
“Advice to parents needs to get beyond an overwhelming focus on risk”