Technology and Kids : Finding the Balance

Kids using Technology
How can we ensure a healthy balance with technology and our children?

The Dilemma

Technology.  It’s all around us, in every facet of our lives.  Babies are born with the ability to swipe and tap.  Although there’s research urging limited screen time, I allow my children ridiculous amounts of app use.  How do I limit them, when I’m constantly connected to my own device? Is it really all that bad?

Research

According to a study discussed on Healthline, “researchers found that 37 percent of children had two hours or less of recreational screen time per day, 51 percent had 9 to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, and 18 percent got at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.”  The problem isn’t screen time but instilling a healthy balance.

The Balance

It’s imperative, especially in the age where schools are doing away with recess and physical education, to maintain a balance.  I taught in a blended learning environment and my students spent about 50% of the school day on their laptops. How did I maintain the balance?  

Recess was a MUST, even when it was raining.  Tools like www.gonoodle.com worked great for those indoor recess days.  It mixes movement & mindfulness with technology.  The kids would get up and move, and practice skills or learn relaxation techniques at the same time.  In his post, “Developing SEL Skills”, Jehu Somarriba discusses how teaching mindfulness to children will be an asset, a skill that will benefit them as adults.  What a great way to maintain screen time balance by incorporating mindfulness, tech, and movement.

Early on in my teaching career, I was tech-free, meaning it was still whiteboards, notebooks, and textbooks for my class.  Going to the computer room once a week (if that) was a treat. Transitioning to life in education dependent on computers was exciting, however, I still maintained my traditional rotation model, defined by eLearning Industry as “a variation of the learning stations model that teachers have been using for years. There is a set schedule by which students have face-to-face time with their teachers and then move to online work.”  Using a rotation model allowed for movement, a change of environment and pace, and a break from the screen time.

At Home

What can happen at home to maintain a healthy balance?  This is something I am currently working on as a parent.  I am constantly fighting parental guilt because I know my children’s technology use is borderline an addiction.  But I know I can’t be that hard on myself.

Here are some steps I have taken to minimize screen-time in our home:

  • Lead by example
  • We no longer leave the television while we eat at the dining room table
  • We turn off all technology an hour before bedtime (read, play, meditate, TALK with one another)
  • We leave tablets and the Nintendo Switch at home.  We talk and listen to music (or read a book) during car rides.
  • We enjoy the outdoors on weekends (love South Florida weather!)

These steps have made a huge difference.  Our children definitely gave us pushback at first, but now we have formed better habits, my children are sleeping better, and I have received reports of better focus during the school day.  Like everything else in life, it’s about moderation. Although we live in a digital world, let’s not let go of important analog tendencies.

Brenda Matos

Former teacher turned product designer on a mission to continue the work of making a difference in the lives of children by providing teachers with the right tools.

9 thoughts on “Technology and Kids : Finding the Balance

  • February 25, 2019 at 2:43 pm
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    I definitely feel guilty whenever I give my daughter my phone. It’s amazing at 3 years old how she can maneuver within my iPhone. To deal with screen time we place a timer on the phone and went it goes off my daughter is starting to understand to return the phone to mommy or papi.

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  • February 25, 2019 at 2:47 pm
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    I agree with limiting screen time! Our world has become so dependent on technology that often times students (and even adults) forget about the world that surrounds them. Of course, nowadays, it’s essential to know how computers and devices work, but if we’re constantly looking down, we miss the beauty that surrounds us. I work in a school as well, so I’ve seen the benefits of limited screen time and how children learn to socialize with each other and form bonds. This, in turn, helps them independently problem solve!

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  • February 25, 2019 at 3:07 pm
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    I agree – it is balance! Technology isn’t going any where and children need to know how to navigate it. However – social skills and learning to navigate the outside world are also part of this balance.

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  • February 25, 2019 at 3:43 pm
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    Technology is great but just like everything that we think is so great, we must use it in moderation. Even as an educator, I would hear from my boss that “we need to see more technology being used”. I watched a documentary a few months ago called “Screenagers” about the use of technology in and out of school and the impact it has on children. It opened my eyes a little wider on the subject. We want it to be accessible for important things at certain times, like playing Kahoot! with the students when reviewing or previewing a topic or when my son has to do research a different country for his report. But then some kids misuse their devices or become addicted to them. I do agree that as a parent, there are steps to take at home to limit the overuse of technology. Here’s a trailer for Screenagers: https://youtu.be/LQx2X0BXgZg

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  • February 25, 2019 at 5:29 pm
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    Firstly, great job on putting your words into action and leading by example with your own kids.
    There definitely has to be a balance with children and technology, as they are exposed to so much, but gearing them more towards to educational tech can also help with monitoring and maintaining a good balance.
    Great job and good read!!!

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  • February 26, 2019 at 12:12 am
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    My approach is to focus on giving kids the tools to make the right technology decisions, instead of relying solely on restricting time. There is too much focus on screen time instead of how children use this time and how it makes them feel. Is it an all-consuming activity? Is it affecting speech development? Are they frustrated when they can’t use their devices? Is it affecting social skills or the family dynamic? There is no one size fits all solution. Teaching children how to have a healthy relationship with technology seems to be the key.

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  • February 26, 2019 at 12:21 am
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    It’s so true that we as parents, caretakers have to find a balance between screentime & physical activity. It’s impossible in this day & age to be a zero screentime has household. No screens an hour before bed time is a new rule that I’m gonna try out tonight.

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  • February 26, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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    Technology is a definite must especially since our society is evolving around technology but there’s definitely needs to be a balance between on screen activities and off screens. My babies are so relent on technology that they don’t feel like going out in general.

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  • March 12, 2019 at 5:55 pm
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    To strike a balance in this current society is important. With so many factors governing the imbalance between technology and kids that it’s become so hard for families to keep up. What their peers do and have, to what’s seen on TV/Internet, it all amounts to an expectation that is hard for kids to ignore. Parents not being home, little supervision and sheer boredom is another. The steps that you took with your family activities at home is not only commendable but should be implemented for as many families as it is applicable to. For now it seems the days of running with friends have been replaced with Fortnite, IG, and youtube (on the couch)… great read

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