How much digital time is too much for our children? Well, it seems to depend on who you ask. We've all been in homes where the tv serves as constant background noise or worse: a virtual babysitter. While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children older than 2 should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours, our pediatrician realizes that 2 hours per day is tough for some parents to enforce. While the Mayo Clinic has specific to reducing screen time, screen time is now competing with education gone digital.
Screen Time Should be More than Lesisure
With increasing time on multitude of digital devices – from smart phones to pricy ipads and handheld game systems and literacy websites such as Big Universe, screen time is no longer relegated to just watching tv and gaming. Concerns need to be weighed against educational benefit -- and literacy experts are questioning this with the goal of increasing active learning and literacy.
A report by The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a “collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, states and communities across the nation,” Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators cites a “digital divide” – with “more than 30 percent of households” not owning a basic computer.
And now an “app gap” (those with no access to apps and mobile devices) and a screen "participation gap” (between parents and children) is increasing. While many parents sit by a child who is randomly clicking on a computer screen, we need to use screen time as an opportunity to increase learning. The Campaign calls for us – parents and teachers – to harness new technology “to further, not stymie, their language and literacy development” (6).
How do Digital Mediums Increase Learning?
Calling for tech-based products, from ebooks to games, to go beyond phonics and word recognition we need our youth to reach letter writing, sight-word recognition and comprehension goals, and parents should seek websites that provide effectiveness studies (9). The study's recommendations call for increased research on how “well-deployed digital media can promote new skills, raise achievement” while uniting students, parents and teachers to close gaps and innovate literacy and learning science (17). Our children, “digital natives,” need us to help them navigate interfaces, evaluate information, and be productive with their tech skills” (18-19). We owe it to our children to be tech savvy and help them do more than use digital means for just recreation – we can use digital media to begin “building the next generation’s reading skills” (21).