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Screen Time, a Parent’s Dilemma

A CFT parent was recently talking to me about her dilemma over screen time for her son, along with other concerns around over-scheduling and too much structured instruction.

Her concerns struck a cord with me on many levels. As a parent myself I have similar considerations. In my experience, we parents want the best for our children and frequently second guess our choices. At Coding for Treasure we offer classes and workshops that use technology as a means to engage kids in developing analytical skills and creativity. We fit with many other worthy activities for a slice of that parent and child’s precious time.

My first thought on the subject is the kids are going to be alright. Kids are incredibly resilient – there are 7 billion of us on the planet to prove it. Parents should likely worry less and enjoy the ride; follow their instincts and allow the child’s interests and developmental level be the guide.

That said, in a global economy that is increasingly competitive and with technology automating processes (aka jobs) at a rapid rate, parents are right to want to give their kids the advantages they need for success.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all before the age of 2 and to strictly limit it in the ages beyond. The reality is many parents rely on the screen as a kind of pacifier to help them get through challenging situations with their young kids – try going on a long flight or eating out a restaurant with an 18 month old!

Statistics certainly bear the most American children are engaged in more media than the current recommendations proscribe. Some even proclaim our children are headed towards some sort of psycho-emotional apocalypse due to screen addiction (although lacking hard evidence to support the claim). Surely this generations brains will be wired very differently from all previous humans and time will tell the relative positives and negatives that befall them.

From personal experience I can tell you my own daughter benefits greatly from reduced and restricted screen time. Her preferred technology use is passive TV or movie watching. If left unabated she could tune in and zone out for hours, but afterwards she’ll have a complete meltdown. It’s happened a few times; I’ll admit that we’ve allowed her to binge watch and the results have always been terrible. So in our home screen time is limited. Part of my motivation for creating Coding for Treasure was to create an environment for active & creative use of technology for kids like her.

Your child and your home is likely completely different. Certainly a child who is actively creating using the iPad or computer should be aloud to pursue their passion as long as it’s supported by a physically active lifestyle.

At CFT our goal is to turn this new generation’s early adoption of technology into a positive. We stress technology as an active tool to be used for creativity, discovery and communication – as pen and pencil have been for centuries. We provide a mix of work on-screen and add in interactive, kinesthetic off-screen activities like robotics, white-boarding, presenting ideas, playing games and building prototypes.

While I can’t personally proscribe the “right” amount of screen time for any child other than my own I do recommend a blended approach to find a balance. Also, if your child is like mine and loves to use technology, it is great to reinforce the opportunity to use it as a tool for learning, exploring and creating.

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