Screen time for children, How much and how long?
There are a lot of questions from parents now about electronics. At what age is it ok for my child to watch TV? How much time should my child be in front of the TV? What is the appropriate age for a child to own an iPad? How many hours a day can my child watch TV or be in front of the screen?
As an educator, I would say that, in the best scenario, children and parents will watch TV from time to time and prefer doing other things than screen time. But yes, technology has taken over and now it is the way we live. But for me the question isn't how much? Or how long? Or at what age? For me the point is: What can a child do instead of spending time on the screen?
I must say that the children don't need screen time at all. Yes, there are a lot of educational games and apps on phones and iPads. There are a lot of educational TV shows that have good information, but what can a child do instead of sitting in from of the TV?
Here are some options:
• Go to play with a neighbor? Socialization will teach a lot more, children get creative with games, they move around, they learn how to solve problems, be engaged, create new situations, create bonds with people and be part of the community.
• Help with chores around the house (help cooking, fold laundry)? I know, they probably won't do it the way we want it done. It will take a little more time or cleaning up after in the kitchen, but when children are involved in the house they learn to own and appreciate their environment and feel that they are important members of the family. Also they develop great concentration and fine motor skills.
• Let them be bored: YES YES and YES....it is OK for a child to be bored. When you have some time to think you can learn to be creative, you can make a game, play with toys, THINK about something to do…
• Create an awesome piece of art.
• Pretend play; use their imaginations with toys or things around the house.
• Go outside, any weather will work … they love to play in the snow, they love to play in the rain and sunny days too. You don't need to have a trail next to your house. And if you have one, no excuses then…get out and go for a walk, explore the neighborhood!
When we go to a restaurant and give our children a phone or an iPad, we are not teaching them how to wait, be patient of even just start conversations with the people at the table and socialize. Being together around the table is a great opportunity to chat, catch up, talk about things around them, and practice how to order food by themselves.
Screen time steals children's downtime, covering all the thinking in their busy minds, and doesn't give them the opportunity to practice concentration or the ability to focus. The more they practice concentration, the more they develop it and their mind can do more complex activities.
Children are creative by nature, but we are interrupting their creativity by giving them screen time.
Dr. Montessori believed that “the hand is the instrument of the mind. Children learn by doing, engaged in multi-sensory exploration, deepening the learning experience. It’s so easy to take for granted the wonders of our hands and the part they play in our learning and development. A child needs to be engaged in the process of discovery, encouraged to explore materials to fully satisfy their natural curiosity.
Therefore, it is clear that we must not carry the child about, but let him walk, and if his hand wishes to work, we must provide him with things on which he can exercise an intelligent activity." —Maria Montessori. The Absorbent Mind, p. 155