Yesterday I read an interesting CTV News article about children and screen time. I thought it was wonderful to compare screen time to nutrition – an analogy that puts the focus on the content of the programs.
Recently I was asked to speak to a group of Red River College students who were just completing their ‘Introduction to Family Childcare’ course. As part of my presentation I included a slideshow of the past and present learning environments in my childcare home.
Screen time was briefly discussed during my presentation and the subsequent question period. Yes, I used to have several computers available for the children in my program to use – and I did not even restrict the amount of time they engaged in the activity.
No, I don’t currently have any computers, tablets, or televisions that are available for the children to use at any time during the day. The reason for the elimination of the ‘computer area’ was due almost entirely to the quality of content available and the fact that the children had no interest in ‘healthy’ content once they had experienced the ‘junk’.
Years ago when I first started my blog I wrote about the use of computers in my childcare program and their gradual elimination. It is not that I don’t value technology – I use it all the time. When the children have questions that I can’t answer we can find the answer on the internet – it is an invaluable resource in addition to their hands on experience.
Unfortunately I think the content of children’s media today has far too much focus on competition instead of collaboration. The smaller screens further emphasize the ‘individual’ over the ‘group’.
I once had a discussion with the staff at my son’s school. My son was extremely slow to engage in new situations and had a tendency to withdraw from social interaction. They were concerned because he refused to use a new program they had recently introduced in their computer class.
I suggested that they should let him sit with and watch another child until he felt comfortable enough to try it himself. They said that was not possible because it would be considered cheating and would not be fair to the other child. Seriously?!?! What were they hoping to teach?
The children and I have discussed the use of screen time – they all have access to screens at home. They’ve described how they like to use their hand held devices when they are bored – it is easier than finding something else to do. They’ve retold me all their favorite parts of the movies and shows they’ve recently watched. If there are any ‘good’ parts in these shows I haven’t heard about them, the children focus on the violent, destructive, mean or rude segments – that’s what they remember.
As I write this there are two children here – they are reading the label on a cereal box and debating the nutritional value. Maybe I’d have screen time as part of the program if there were ‘nutrition’ labels on the content of every program. However, I’m not sure I have the energy to break through their addiction to the junk so instead my program will continue to be screen free and really they don’t complain about the absence of screens when there are healthier options available.