Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Should Screen Time Be Limited (Continued)

The whole year of 2010 was a very interesting year for me. Each year I make resolutions or create goals in different sectors of my life and do my best to accomplish them. I often have mixed results at my resolutions and my goals. Last year I created two publishing goals. One publishing goal was to read a book and record a book review for my local NPR affiliate. Here is that work. My next goal was to publish something in Learning and Leading, a magazine published by ISTE. I actually tried to publish in this magazine previously but was rejected. Unbeknownst to me, I was pitted against, in a duel of words, with Dr. Gary Stager. Gary is a leader in the edtech community whom I greatly look up to. Of course, I won the argument but I still feel that my 500 point/counter point stance could use further clarification, especially after Gary highlighted this poor attempt at a “faux debate” in a blog post not to far in the past. I must iterate the point that Gary and I did not know, at the printing of the original article, which side of the argument we were lobbying for. Here is the pre-published article.

I have three main points that I want to clarify. (Child=Student; Not all screen time is equal; limits are love)When is a child not a student? For that mater, when is a person not learning? I too believe that schools have very little jurisdiction of what a child is taught in the home, what parents should expect of a child and what that child is exposed to. I do not think that it is unreasonable to coordinate with the home about content. If Suzy is learning multiplication facts, wouldn’t it be great if the parents could do 15 minutes of flash cards a night. This is not an unreasonable expectation of the school. It is even a greater gift to a child if the school collaborates with home to help a child learn about his or her interests. By the way, these interests might not be on a state standardized test. If learning is a 24 hour, 7 day a week natural occurrence, then shouldn’t we consider a child always a student? And if you except the “child is always a student” premise then should parents limit screen time? And Yes, there is a screen time hierarchy. It does depend on what you consider screen time. I do not think that I consider, as a part of the edtech community, that all “screen time/screen-based activities as equivalent.” I hope that I am not a part of the “imaginatively bankrupt,” but I would let a child create a musical score to his or her video voyage to the center of the Earth, discussing all the layers of our planet before I sat that same student in front of a projection screen to let them watch the movie Marley and Me. On the same note, I see way too many children at Applebees playing Nintendo DS’s at the table waiting for a meal when conversation should occur. Give me a break. Parents and teachers should not placate their “student” with electronic devices because it is easier to let them zone out and avoid any risk of an augment with a disagreeable teen. Also, when children are engrossed to the point of zombies in their electronic devices they are a lot less likely to bug or touch each other in an effort to annoy, which seems to be an activity that my 8 and 11 year old cannot avoid. Parents cannot let their children sit around and “eat bonbons all day.” If we limit bonbons and screen time we are being the 24 hour educators we should be and are not being “capriciously mean” or in any way shirking our responsibilities as parents.

My son, while using an iPod Touch on my home wireless, downloaded the app “Sexy Monster Trucks” when he was 10 years old. My Internet at home is not filtered. I would rather teach about limits that are self-imposed rather then authoritatively handed down by some kind of automatic filtering system that blocks my father’s website because he works for the “lubricants” division at the American Refining Group. My son did not know what the word “sexy” meant so he looked up the word on YouTube. He got an education. He uses my iTunes account so I got an email about this app he downloaded. I asked him about the app and at first he lied and said he did not download it. Then I said that I would investigate and that is when he came clean. I was not going to punish him until he lied about it and it seemed he felt so guilty that he wanted some kind of consequence. So, for a whole month he had no screen time. He actually limited himself and did not watch TV or use a computer of any kind for a month. A transformation occurred. He became more articulate, talkative and more thoughtful. He even read more on his own. He was looking for a limit and in someway he understood that I cared about him even more because of the consequence that I handed down. I cannot imagine how inarticulate and mind numbed my son would be if my wife and I had no screen time limits.

The number one predictor of success for a child is their ability to delay gratification. Setting limits teaches children how to delay gratification. I wrote a
previous blog post and I recently read a WebMD article about this very topic.

Setting limits are very important for children because they are always “students.” Watching “Fred Clause” during school and not creating your own video game using the program Scratch just further emphasizes the point that not all screen time is created equal. And sometimes children are looking for us (the village) to set limits and many times those limits are a sign of caring. And in this day and age, a caring adult in a child’s eyes can have a lot of impact.

(All Photos are in the public domain and were found using creativecommons.org)