Children And Screen Time: 3 Myths Exposed via @PatFurstenberg

What is that one valuable item you never leave home without? The one, if you are anything like me, you carry around with you from one room to the next as you move around through your own home? The one you keep within ear reach, even as you sleep.

Yes, it is the smartphone. If you would have only two minutes to leave your home, what would you take with you? What are your most valuable items, except for your immediate family? Is your phone included on the emergency list? Yes? Why so? Because it is a necessity.

The number of smartphone users in South Africa more than doubled between 2014 and 2018 and it is estimated that it will increase by an extra 5 percent by 2022, statistics show. However, the number of times Americans look at their phones each day remained constant during the past three years: 47 times.

The exception is the 18-24 years age group, that checks their phones 86 times per day. Only 16 percent of Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning, a 2017 Deloitte U.S. consumer survey shows. Let’s face it; it is hard to resist a device that adds so much value to our daily lives in a way that no single device ever has been able to. Smartphones allow us, almost anytime and anyplace, to call, text, watch, listen, browse, shop and read!

Now think of your young child handling your smartphone; in a safe place where it can’t be dropped … Is the thought of making you anxious? Why so? Is it because your child can damage your mobile device, or because the smartphone can unsettle your youngster? What if we would turn around the image of a kid holding a smartphone and look at its positive side? Will it excite us to see how quickly our young children learn to use the latest technology? What if we shift our focus and look at digital technology as a tool to promote individual growth?

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to.

Let’s try to understand the three myths concerning children and their screen time exposure.

1. Screens are forcing children to live a passive life

So many TV shows and games to get kids up and moving, especially shows focusing on animals, friends sharing an adventure and providing learning opportunities. Emerging research shows that children enjoy taking part in active video games more than playing traditional games during physical education. Active screen time during preschool years also helps improves children’s cognitive skills and school readiness, increases their vocabulary and promotes social interaction, research shows.

2. Playing games distracts children from their education

A research conducted in 2018 “found changes in brain activity and increased performance on tests of visual selective activity in subjects who had spent one hour playing the League of Legends video game”. The research team assessed the participants’ visual selective attention before and after playing the game. The conclusion was that the expert game players had more brain activity associated with attention than the non-experts. The expert game players also scored better on the initial visual selective attention assessment.

What if we look at video games from an education perspective? What if video games can teach educators and parents more about our children’s cognitive learning? What if video games can be used to reduce exam stress and the time spent doing tests as well as the time used by the school in assessing the children? What if video games can help teachers focus on individualised learning? Can this be a new paradigm for education? Video games are well suited for individual learning, allowing students to learn at their own pace, under parental control. Games bridge the in-school and out-of-school learning and put the fun back in the study.

For example, the Mathematics Fluency Data Collaborative is a project is a G4LI project led by Carnegie Learning and in collaboration with Game2Learn at the University of North Carolina, the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and PlayPower. Experts in mathematical education, cognitive skills, game design and data mining have created a platform for high-quality mathematics games to help students acquire the skills to succeed in mathematical problem solving through gaming.

3. Screens form a barrier between parents and their kids

The greatest benefit of screen time comes only when parents talk to their children about what they watch or the games they played. Screen time can be used as a tool to promote meaningful discussions, a springboard for teaching kids empathy. Empathy and compassion are the foundation of a happy, meaningful life, but they cannot be learned from a book; they must come from emotional situations, and this is where supervised screen time can help.

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to. Having a balance is also important, but we must acknowledge that we share the same world with our children, and information technology is a part of our lives.

As parents and teachers, we can raise our expectations about digital media, choose to talk to our children about its content, and show them why it matters and how to use it to their advantage.

First published on Huffington Post SA, 29 June 2018

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Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps

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5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

Raising a boy who takes pleasure out of reading books just as much as from a soccer ball or a Play Station might sound easier said than done, but, in the long run, it’s all worth it.

There are lots of books there that can stand on their own two feet and win the battle against a Nintendo, a Xbox or… even Minecraft!

Here are five easy steps to get your son to enjoy reading.

1. Visit the local library together.

Let your son wonder around the library, see a book and sit down to page through it. Don’t rush him. Find books with little text and lots of images geared at what your child is interested it. Then slowly move to books with short chapters.

If your child struggles to read himself, then read to him, aloud, every day. He’ll still get to enjoy the story without feeling frustrated and books will still be a positive experience for him. Until he’ll enjoy them by himself.

2. Leave reading material around the house

Be it a picture book on his favorite topic, a magazine or a comic book, you want him to pick it up and enjoy a page or two at a tiem. How-to books on sport are a great place to start getting a boy interested in reading.

Never make reading a chore. Rather surround your child with books, rather than forcing it on him. Place a bookshelf in his room and allow him to choose a few books to place in it.

3. Read yourself.

Children often mimic what they see and we, as parents, are our children’s mirrors.

Kids, especially boys, love silly books. Books with jokes are a great way to get them reading, sometimes even without them even noticing they are doing it.

4. Get Dad involved.

Get Dad to read too if your son struggles with reading. Even better, try a father-son book club and perhaps get involved with other dads and their sons. Book clubs are not only for girls – have a BBQ-Book Club, for example.

Remember, having positive role models help both boys and girl staying interested in reading.

5. Start a reading list by writing down what your son read and what he would like to read next. Allow him to rate the books. This way you can both see where his interests lay and he can feel more in control over his reading.

Studies show that children who have been introduced to books from an early age have a positive attitude towards reading and a greater chance to become successful readers. But a successful reader isn’t only someone who devours one book after another. A successful reader will also understand what the story line is about, will get its meaning and will also be able to focus on the task at hand for a longer time. For this is what reading entails, being able to focus indefinitely. Or at least until Mom or Dad come to switch off your light and forceful y remove the book from your hand because… tomorrow is school.

Five great books for boys:

1. Captain Underpants series is a great place to start and a Best Seller in Children’s Chapter Books;

2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid has over 10 000 reviews;

3. The Boy’s Book of Adventure: The Little Guidebook for Smart and Resourceful Boys  a fun book packet with facts on outdoor and nature;

4.The Book With No Pictures if you’re brave to say out loud everything that’s written on each page;

5. Joyful Trouble a fun read about a real dog and World War I, Best Gifted Young Adult book in UK.

Originally written for Red Tricycle here.  

 

 

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