The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life by Anya Kamenetz

4. You Have the Power: Positive Parenting with Media

  • Preschool-aged kids can learn from TV, be it good or bad. This is yet another good reason to pay attention to the messages in the media your kids are watching. Purpose-built games, simulations, and other software applications can ameliorate some of the problems that are made worse by some conventional games and software. Fast-paced video games can also help improve attentional control and focus. Some report that there are iPad apps that people with autism, learning disabilities, and other issues can use in a variety of ways to communicate, reduce stress, and learn how to recognize emotions.
  • With food it’s easy to tell the difference between vegetables and junk food. It’s up to parents to do the same with media. Banning media doesn’t make sense as to understand how the world works children need to be exposed to how the world works. The idea is not to ban media but to get more out of it. Be it games or passive media, the main idea is to engage together with your kids. Not only are kids watching media, they are also watching their parents. Setting rules is less important than talking and listening. Families that are too authoritarian in general may discourage critical thinking about media messages.
  • The one fact that researchers agree on is that porn is everywhere and kids are going to find it. Parents who have honest conversations about this subject seem to have better results. (Doug: I recommend this in my recent book.) One pathway that makes a lot of sense is to collaborate with younger children using digital media as an accessory to creative play. Think of turning part of your home into a maker space where parents and kids can create together.

5. An Hour at a Time: How Real Families Navigate Screens

  • In this chapter you hear how hundreds of real families make technology rules, as well as what the experts do in their own homes. In two-parent homes, the first thing is to get both parents on the same page regarding screen time rules. You should consider workout videos and Skyping with grandma separate from your rules. Also, don’t be surprised if your game plan evolves as technology advances, more research becomes available, or your current rules aren’t working. Keep in mind it’s easier to set rules from the beginning than it is to set rules when you think your kids are already indulging in too much screen time.
  • For this book, Anya assembled and administered a survey that was initially given online and received 550 responses. This was followed by face to face interviews with respondents. Most parents used a time limit and many required kids to complete other activities first such as homework, exercise, chores, or reading real books. Many also use screen time as a reward for good behavior. Rules usually prevent access to specific content, usually violent content and content aimed at mature audiences. Many also say no screens in the bedroom. (Doug: I did that. All screen time was in places where my wife and I could see what it was.)
  • Experts Anya interviewed gave interesting input including no screens an hour before bedtime, teach kids how to occupy themselves without screens, and no snacking during screen time.

6. Screens at School

  • Anya’s main take here is that truly excellent digital learning experiences facilitated by your kids’ teachers at school are likely to be the exception, not the rule. Since almost all students get some screen time at school, the parent’s job gets even more complex when students need to use screens for homework. There are also some worst practices to watch out for with computers in the classroom and for homework. Here is what parents should look for. Ideally, educational technology will require actively engaged students. For learning, good narratives associated with student experiences are key. Finally, children learn best when another person is listening, asking questions, encouraging them, and providing feedback.
  • In tech-enabled classrooms, students’ work habits start to resemble those of modern-day office workers, for better and for worse. Computers give students the option to work independently, allowing for more personalized learning. Some teachers allow students to listen to music all day, and it is common to have schoolwork open in one window and social media in another. While there is a push from industry and politicians to teach coding to all, the pipeline of coding teachers doesn’t exist. There are, however, some new apps that kids can play with to learn coding concepts. While Anya admits to being somewhat jaded based on her experience, she remains optimistic.
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