As a parent, I am fiercely protective of my children. I want them to be kids. I want them to play sports, get lost in great books, collect bugs in our backyard, and engage with one another creating art projects, choreographing dance numbers, and playing good old fashioned board games.

I often feel these traditional pastimes are less attractive than the pull of the screen. I resent the magnetic pull that iPads and apps have on their time and attention.

As I write this, I do appreciate the irony of the tech enthusiast educator resenting my own children’s clear adoration of technology. I’ve spent time contemplating why this is and have reached a conclusion.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Not all screen time is created equal.” quote=”Not all screen time is created equal.”]

First, it’s clear to me that not all screen time is created equal. In the context of my own children–ages 8 and 10, I realize that I have zero problem with my daughter spending large quantities of time on the Chromebook when she is creating something. She is currently writing a book (true story!) and uses the Voice Typing tool in Google Docs to transfer her handwritten drafts online, so they can be shared with family members. She also enjoys making multimedia presentations about random animals she has decided to research.

Her first Google Slide presentation was titled “The Amazing World of Pangolins.” I’m going to be really honest here and admit I had never heard of pangolins prior to her presentation. When I asked her what inspired the project, she said she learned how to use Google Slides in technology class and wanted to “teach people about pangolins.” My heart melted. My child wanted to teach other people by creating a dynamic presentation.

So, as you can imagine, I love seeing my children create on the computer. It’s the creativity piece that’s key for me. What I do not love is time spent plugged into bright flashing games that require little, to no, curiosity or creativity. Recently, my children discovered Dragon City on the iPad. Agh. It’s genius at getting kids to jump back on periodically throughout the day to “check on their dragons.” For me, this type of screen time doesn’t feel like quality time well spent. It feels more like time suckage. It’s this type of screen time I choose to limit.

In the context of education, it’s crucial that we question why we are using technology.

  • How does it improve or enhance the learning?
  • How does it shift the focus to the students putting them at the center of learning?
  • Does it require curiosity, critical thinking, and creativity?
  • Does it allow students to accomplish something they could not without the technology?

If educators consider these questions each time we plan an activity or lesson that encourages screen time, those activities are more likely to be meaningful.

6 Responses

  1. Hi Caitlin, Great point about not all screens being equal. It’s completely true that not all computer, laptop, or tablet activities are truly contributing to the child’s success. The company I work with sells all of these products and we try to work with schools so that children can have these types of technology available to them in the classroom ( Thanks again for sharing this post!

  2. I also have an 8 and 10 year old and struggle with managing screen time. During the school year my kids may only play games on devices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They may use screens on school days for school related work only. They are both good students, love to read, stay active, enjoy board games, etc. I know they enjoy games but I feel they’re such a waste. I’m fine with them playing a bit. They have played Dragon City and now Boom Beach. I have vowed to never let them download a game that requires checking in often. Drives me crazy! I’m thinking of putting a time limit per day for video games and allowing more time for creating, coding, etc. I am just curious if you’ve found a good way to balance it all.

    • Hi Leah,

      My kids rarely get screen time during the week. If so, it’s rare and limited to 20 minutes. On the weekends, they typically get 30-60 screen time (TV or iPad). I want them to play in the backyard, work on art projects, and read!


  3. […] To be perfectly clear: Yes, there are ways of using a smartphone that can negatively impact mental health. Personally, I pay attention not to use my phone too much and to have times when I’m offline. I have turned off some particularly pesky push-notifications and deleted some tremendously time-trenching apps. However, I also use my phone to listen to podcasts, to exchange pictures with friends and family, or to read blog posts — things that I feel enrich my life deeply. In other words: Not all screen-time is created equal. […]

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