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Importance of structured and non-structured Screen time.

The Pandemic situation has brought major challenges but schools have valiantly risen to the challenge to ensure that learning continues uninterrupted and the transition to virtual platforms using current technologies and tools has been quick and smooth.

But this has resulted in a sharp spike in concerns among parents regarding screen time.

  1. Children are spending way too much time in front of the screens due to online classes.
  2. Their tender eyes might suffer due to excess screen time.
  3. They are getting addicted to gadgets.
  4. How much is too much screen time? We have done a related blog on this, please check.

The debate about screen time has been there since the dawn of technology. It is indeed a complex topic to discuss as we have varied perspectives on how constant engagement with technology through screen affects our child’s life.

Parents are talking about screen time but ideally, we should be discussing good/structured and bad/non-structured screen time. Because if we guide our children toward technology that teaches them something productive, it will definitely reduce most of our screen time and increase children’s learning opportunities. It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to prioritize our children’s academic knowledge-building and learning screen engagement with other non-structured, entertainment-based screen engagement.

Why is structured screen time important?

Be it online learning, yoga/exercise sessions, social interaction, structured screen time for our children should be the primary focus for parents. 

  • We believe that more than just the screen time, it is the quality of content and productive engagement that matters. Online classes are thus an important part of structured screen time.
  • Depending upon how much screen time is being allowed to our children, we need to divide the allotment accordingly. So if our children watch a 2-hour show on television, we should be aware that we have hit the screen time target for the day. Now its parent’s responsibility to decide what and how they would like to strike the balance between movie time and online learning time.
  • Even if we put restrictions on the timing, we need to analyze the effect on our children with respect to learning because productive screen time is the need of the hour. So instead of being a “Time cop” we can be our children’s “Media mentor”.
  • While constantly fixing our gaze on the screen will put extra pressure on eyes, online classes have the option to look back and forth from screen to notebook/book. This way our children are not constantly exposed to the screen.
  • When we talk about online learning, we also talk about the interaction between learners, the learning leaders, and their peers. This flexibility is not available when our children are using gadgets for playing games or watching a random show. We know how different levels of interactions can help out children come up with new ideas, be expressive, and collaborate more with their peers, teachers, and parents.
  • Online lessons are curated in such a way that children get enough breaks after each session. This break gives the much-required rest to their eyes. As opposed to playing games where there is no break because they don’t want to miss that level! Similarly, the blinking rate goes down when exposed to unstructured screentime time which in turn is harmful to eyes.
  • Another flexibility online learning has to offer is that it can be conducted in a desktop or laptop at an arm’s distance. Children necessarily don’t need to be glued to the screen at close proximity. So the size of the screen needs to be given equal consideration.

 How do we manage structured screen time?

  • Looking for educational resources: In a recent article by Indian express, dated July 19, 2020 emphasis has been given on how screen time can be made educational, productive, and engaging. Please click on the link to know the recommendation.
  • Setting up screen time routine: While weekdays screen time can be online and extracurricular sessions, weekends can be used for entertainment purposes, but under parental guidance and constant monitoring.
  • Socially distant yet virtually connected:  To curb the spread of the virus, it’s important to maintain a physical distance but we can still be socially closer though technology. Thus social interaction and time with loved ones and friends are very important to maintain our children’s mental well-being. It also preserves connection and eases feelings of being out of sync.
  • Co-viewing: Co-viewing is a great option especially among younger children as they learn best when they are re-taught in the real world what they just learned through a screen. Even co-playing video games is a good way to bonding, teaching sportsmanship, and gaming etiquette.
  • Use of physical textbooks: To avoid screen time effect, children need to be constantly reminded of the importance of writing and taking notes. It not only moves them away from the screen but also improves their overall learning process.

Managing non-structured screen time.

Having spoken about the positives of productive screen time, it is imperative for us to allow entertainment-based screen time to our little children who are also badly impacted by this pandemic. They need their “me time” just like we adults and have all the right to use digital tools to bust their stress, anxiety, and desperation.

  • As per research, children under 2 years of age should not be exposed to digital media other than occasional TV, or video chatting. While children above 2 and pre-schoolers can have 30-60 minutes of screen time. Thus parents can manage their screen time accordingly. 
  • Instead of letting young children take ownership of the gadget and its content, it’s advisable to sit with them and monitor their screen exposure. This will build strong family bonding.
  • To reduce the non-structured screen time, we can have gadget-free zones at home.
    • Mealtimes and other social gatherings can be made screen-free.
    • Adults can keep aside their gadgets to set an example for kids.
    • Avoiding screen time 45 minutes before bedtime.
    • Gadgets can be kept outside the bedroom when it needs to be recharged, to avoid temptations.

These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep.

  • Unstructured screen time can be converted to unstructured playtime. Children should have time to play away from screens every day.
    • Involving them in art and craft of DIY activities.
    • Including 30 minutes of physical exercises/yoga.
    • Allowing them fresh air outside home depending upon the restrictions.
    • Encouraging Indoor board games, treasure hunt, pretend play and puzzles.

We need to understand that our children are now digital natives. Hence we need to shift our focus to value digital citizenship and creating positive digital footprints. Screentime is inevitable in today’s time; hence we need to make the most of it. Let us aim to ensure our child experiences the best of both worlds, with a good mix of activities and online learning.

Contact us to know more about Vega schools online classes.

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