Hands-up who else feels the parent guilt when iPads and TV remotes come out... If it’s child development you’re worried about, home-educating mum of 2 and Mama Brown & Co contributor Saskia Crawley shares 5 ways to make screen time more educational:
Is there a parent who hasn’t worried about the amount of screen time they’re getting? Whether it’s worrying they’re getting too much or worrying you’re depriving them by removing the option all together? As a home schooler, I’ve thought about it a lot, and here’s how I approach making screen time as educational as possible...
Pick educational apps
Children learn through play, and it’s no different when it comes to technology. There are loads of fantastic learning apps available to keep children engaged while teaching them in the process. Maths apps, sight word apps, language apps, creative apps... Any areas you’d like them to boost their skills, you’ll be able to find an app to help, and make it fun! Our top educational favourites include:
Make it a bonding time
Techtime is the perfect time to catch up on life admin or just sit and scroll for a bit for your own peace and quiet. But if you want to make it more educational, get involved. Sit with them and watch what they’re watching, cuddle up and engage in what they’re playing and...
Chat about what they’re doing
A wonderful way to boost learning from screen time use is to engage our children in conversation about what they’re watching and playing. Ask them what the aim of the game is or whether they agree with what the cartoon characters are doing? Rather than censoring every program I don’t see to be ‘ideal’ (but that the boys enjoy) I try to talk to them about the negatives I’ve spotted.
For example, if they’re watching a cartoon on Netflix and the characters call each other ‘stupid’ I’ll point out it’s not very kind and suggest another way they could have expressed themselves. Or if they’ve asked to watch toy unboxing videos on YouTube (how is this a thing?!) I’ll try and chat to them about what the presenters might do with all the toys after (give some to children who don’t have any, recycle the packaging etc).
I want my children to be able to question what they interact with rather than blindly accepting everything or simply avoiding things they might not agree with. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t commentate over every episode! But I think it’s key to have an awareness and interest in our children’s digital consumption without being preachy.
Switch to grown-up TV
I sometimes forget there’s such a thing as daytime TV for adults. If our TV is on before bedtime, then 9/10 it’s on a child’s programme... However, occasionally I’ll suggest watching a ‘grown-up programme’ we can watch and chat about that I know they’ll love and will be educational. Property shows, auction programmes, cookery things... Anything that touches on culture, history or science in a format that wouldn’t be too daunting for children. My 2-year-old has been known to request Planet Earth.
Stop stressing and model a healthy approach
I’m no child development expert, so I speak from opinion and not science - but I believe technology can be used as a totally healthy part of childhood without imposing strict time limits. Yes, I would much prefer my children were galloping through forests and running through daisies in a world of their own imagination more often than not, but it’s not realistic.
Rather than setting my children up to feel paranoid or rebellious about future tech use, I want them to know technology is a powerful tool of modern life and we don’t need to be afraid of it. We can learn, relax, earn and connect thanks to screens...
By not stressing too much and simply approaching screen time with a healthy attitude, I think we make it much more educational than removing it all together and leaving them to figure it all out later.
How do you feel about screen time and which of these ideas do you think you could try? Let us know over on Instagram.