Screen Time: The Dilemma
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 HERE. I 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.