Kindergarten Teacher

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Screen Time: The Dilemma

Class video conferencing with an author

Let me start by saying that if you teach young children and you don’t have a sand table, art easel, blocks center and dramatic play you don’t have a dilemma, you have a real problem. Stop worrying about screens and focus on providing more opportunities for play in the class. Now I can step off my soapbox and get to the real discussion.

A recent comment on my blog led to this post. I really appreciate when people question my thinking and pushback against what I say or post. Reflection is powerful! The specific comment itself really isn’t that important but the issues behind the question are important. How much screen time should kids be exposed to? Do technology and screens have a place in the class for young children? If you follow my blog or me on twitter you know that technology is something I love. I have a passion for including technology in the class and also enjoy all the tech tools I have in my personal life. Given that I have said many times that I would give up ALL the technology in my class for a high quality outdoor classroom, and I mean that. Nothing is more powerful to a child than play and real world experiences. Nothing!

The real question we have to ask when discussing “screen time” is are all screens equal? I feel strongly they are not. I really can’t think of anything (other than physical harm and abuse) that we should remove from the class with a blanket statement. Worksheets and rewards are a great example. I don’t like them but would never say they should be removed completely. They both could have a valid place in the classroom given certain situations and thoughtful consideration. To me that is one of the keys, thoughtful consideration. We SHOULD be concerned about screen time because it is not the optimal way to teach many things. We need to be focused on the learning not the technology as I have posted HEREI feel the second key to screen time is balance. Too much of anything is usually a negative and it certainly is in this case. Every lesson does not need to involve a screen and teachers of young students really need to keep that balance in mind as they plan and prepare. 

So here is my stance. Screen time should be avoided for kids under 2 years old. For kids 2-4 it should be used minimally. From 4 years on, screen time has an important place in education given it is used with thoughtful consideration and balance. Technology can be powerful in the classroom when used appropriately and effectively. The tools and lessons I try to focus on allow for creativity and collaboration in ways that we could not achieve without them. Again here is the post with specific examples of what I feel is appropriate and useful technology in the class.

I suggest that everyone read through the Commercial Free Childhood’s stance and the NAEYC/ Fred Rogers statement on technology. As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments!

5 Responses to Screen Time: The Dilemma

  1. Well put, Matt. I agree, everything in balance. Having said that, I know that when I use technology with my Kinders, it helps them to make new connections. And they are motivated and engaged. It’s a different generation of learners, specifically when children sit in grocery carts/strollers with mobile devices or smart phones. For me, using technology in my practice allows my students to wonder more. Our answers are a click away. One Kinder asked me “why ducks quack?”. I didn’t really know, but together we found out. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Wonder is a powerful thing Meg and using tech to promote and encourage wonder is awesome. Thanks for the comment

  2. Gail says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Great reflection on the place tech should hold in a classroom. Your message resonated with me. I would co-teach that outdoor classroom and if we could transport children between Massachusetts and Texas – oh the options are endless. I think in the early days of using tech, I was distracted by it, but over the years, I know that I am now focused on the learning. It’s important in that the learning can be targeted to different levels of need and usually within the same website. Starfall gives excellent practice and can take students through endless levels of difficulty. I have found your Symbaloo webmixes to be ideal and they are instantly available. I tell tell you how grateful I am that you took the time to organize so much content.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Would be honored to work with you Gail. Thanks for the insightful comment, I think it is easy to be distracted by tech at first but after a while it is simply another tool in the room. Glad you enjoy the symbaloo mixes!

  3. Tara Ehrcke says:

    Many of the physiological changes from screens have nothing to do with what is on them. Mere exposure to fast changing images has an impact on our highly plastic brains (and especially so for children), and also leads to more sedentary behavior. That is why the Pediatric Association recommend no screen time to babies, and two hours or less to children & teens. Yet our children are already getting more than six hours on average outside of school. Now we are going to add to that…I think technology integration should be adopted very carefully…it is changing our brains and how we think and learn and develop. Try reading: In the Shallows – What the Internet is doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr for some very scary medical research on this topic.

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