There is something special about cuddling on the couch, snacking on popcorn and watching a new release (or an old favorite). Bonding over a laugh or squeezing tight during a scary scene. Priceless.
And yet, there seems to be a yin to the yang.
Behavior changes when we sit in front of a screen too long. Studies have shown too much screen time increases obesity, decreases the quality of sleep. My son seems to regress with each half-hour of TV. His attitude reflects what he watches. And, unfortunately, even educational shows like Wild Kratz displays negative behavior.
So, in a homeschool world, how do you balance the screen time?
Here is the good and bad of screen time.
Children learn a lot from the screen. There is a great documentary, Life Animated, which follows a child on the spectrum who learns to speak by watching Disney movies. (Our personal experience reflects this method works).
There are numerous benefits to screentime. Children learn about social norms and cues. Film and television provide authentic and varied language that many would not pick up in a peer relationship. And most importantly, for children on the spectrum who think and see in pictures, television and film give a visual context.
Unfortunately, there are lots of negative results of screen time. We copy what we see and hear. Kids learn and pick up so many things from the screen about dating, relationships between boys and girls, how to speak to parents and when to exercise independence. Often, this is done in a way causing harm to the cognition of the child.
Too often in American culture, we celebrate the celebrity and choice of stars and then complain about why our children act like them. We relish the drama and excitement of the racy, poor decision filled scenes; discuss and glorify them when they are not on. We wonder why our ten-year-old girls want to wear short-shorts and our boys want to curse up a storm.
So how do we find balance in the crazy that is homeschool? When our education is turning to the screen? Our free time is playing on a screen? Our family time is sitting in front of a screen? Here are three steps we use in our home that seem to work for us:
- Use it as a reward. There is no reason a screen has to be on in every room for every person every day. Ensure school work, chores, playing outside, and being creative are completed prior to any screen time.
- Limitation. Limit what they watch, when they watch, how long they watch. Limitations are good in all aspects of life – from what we eat to what we watch. We do not let any screens in our kiddos bedroom and use Google Chrome Cast which is mirrored from our phones to ensure we know what is watched and when it is over.
- Model. Practice what you preach. If your rule is to finish work, exercise, reading, and creativity first, but your child never sees you do that – you are asking for trouble. What rules you put in place for the screen should be reflected in your own actions. Other than numerous benefits of opening up time for productivity, this allows you to show your child there is so much more to this wonderful life than the big (or little handheld) screen in front of them.
Screen time can be a wonderful tool and entertainment resource. However, it can also be the bane of your existence. May we all find balance in the world of homeschool and homework in this strange and ever-developing global situation.