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Is too much screen time a concern for online students?
We live in an age of amazing technological breakthroughs. Your mobile phone could probably replace a half-dozen devices around your home – if it hasn’t already.
This does mean, however, that you spend a lot of time absorbing information from screens – and so do your kids. When your child attends an online school, you may begin to wonder if your daughter or son is spending too much time staring at their devices.
The new reality
Your children love their own cell phones, video games, tablets, laptops, televisions and smart devices just as much as you do. It’s the world we live in, and there’s no going back.
“I think a lot of families have come to the conclusion that screen time is just a reality of life,” says Erica Rhone, head of school at The Keystone School. “It’s something that we all have to deal with.”
At the same time, Ms. Rhone notes that parents can take steps to make sure that their children are interacting with their world in different ways, as well. Keystone, for example, is an online private school that gives students the ability to print out assignments and scan in completed work for review by graders. Students are required to complete hands-on science lab work. Studying for various classes can be done away from the computer.
“It’s really important to have a schedule that builds in breaks” Ms. Rhone says. “Parents and teachers need to know how to appropriately schedule and build in downtime so that students can refocus when they get back to work. And by scheduling it in, not only does your brain get a rest, but your eyes also get a rest from the computer.”
A parent’s role
As a parent, you need to be honest with yourself: how do you feel about your child’s screen time? Do you think it’s an issue? Is it causing problems for you, your child or their peers?
“Technology can play a positive role in everyone’s lives, especially if it is something they’ve learned in school, or connecting with someone to fill a social need,” says Robbye Fox, a certified parenting instructor from Kensington, Maryland. “But parents first need a clear concept of why they are bothered with their kid’s involvement in technology. Bullying, plagiarizing homework, videogames to avoid homework, haven’t done the chores — these are some reasons why technology could be inhibiting home and school life.”
We’ve all read horror stories about what can happen when children are given free and unfettered online access. As a parent, it is your responsibility to be aware of not only how much time your child is spending in front of a screen, but what he or she is doing, too.
“The stakes get higher because what they can do with the inappropriate use,” Ms. Fox says. “Part of it is constant communications about it. There are some ways to monitor social media. For instance, when a kid turns 16 years old, we don’t just hand them the keys to the car. Many precautions are taken, laws and training and incremental steps are in place, because a car can take a life. So can the internet. Parents need to say ‘I love you too much to just hand you the keys and say have a nice drive.’ Even once they get the keys, we still keep an eye on how they drive and how they use the car.”
The solution is communication
Talk to your children about how they are using technology, and listen when they have questions or concerns of their own. As a family, you can set the bar for what is and is not acceptable.
“It’s important to work as a family to set limits about technology in a way that allows a dialogue,” Ms. Fox says. “Using language like ‘Here is my issue, here are my concerns about what’s going on’ and seeing where the conversation goes from there. My kids had frustrations about how WE as parents were using technology, and we would talk about that and try changing our behaviors too. Not all technology is bad.”
Is online education right for your family?
Do you think your child could thrive in a flexible educational environment? Learn more about The Keystone School today.