Screens in schools: the digital age

While parents and teachers may despair at the amount of time that children spend on their laptops, tablets and phones; the digital age has brought many positive resources to education. Interactive whiteboards, games and activities which test specific subjects, and search engines which provide a vast database of information. Millennial children rely less and less on libraries and paper books to find new information and answers to their burning questions.

Like it or not, computers are now an integral part of everyone’s lives and – as with most things in life – our reliance on technology comes with benefits and risks.

Limiting screen time for kids
  • These risks include:
  • Threats to internet safety
  • Distraction from educational content
  • Exposure to non-credible or inaccurate information
  • Reduction in the practice of imaginary games
  • Reduced practice of skills needed to research information via library collections.

News reports have, in fact, linked screen time to multiple health and behavioural issues’

Luckily, there are things you can do to limit your child’s time in front of screens. For example, there are child locks available for devices which block users from viewing certain content. There are even platforms which enable parents to limit and restrict their children’s screen time, such as ‘Screentime’ and ‘Brave Browser’. But what about limiting screen time at school?

Negative effects of too much screen time

Screens do have positive applications within education. But just as exposure to too much screen time can be damaging during leisure time, technology should not be overused in schools either.
Screen time can be a very passive activity. While engaging in on-screen activities, children become completely engrossed and detached from all communication, interaction and participation in their social environment – whether that be with family, friends or peers.

Research has also shown that screen time can negatively affect children’s sleep, increase the risk of concentration problems, anxiety, depression, and unhealthy weight due to lack of physical exercise. And all of this can have negative effects on academic progress, as well as the children’s enjoyment of school. This can contribute to children feeling unhappier day-to-day, which can have a knock-on effect on all aspects of their life, from relationships with their friends, parents, confidence and willingness to learn.

Tips for managing too much screen time at school

Schools are experimenting with different approaches to phones and electronic devices. Some take phones away from pupils during school hours to prevent distraction, whereas some allow pupils to have their phones with them almost all the whole time. We do not provide an answer as to which approach is correct here but it is clear that using phones or tablets during a lesson when not permitted to do so demonstrates, a lack of respect for teachers as well as signs of distraction from and possibly boredom with the class content. Children benefit hugely from clear boundaries and structure to know what is expected of them and how to behave. Therefore having assigned ‘digital time’ during recreational time and clear rules regarding personal digital devices in the classroom is important.

In our opinion – asides from the physical effects it may have on activity levels and eyes – not all screen time is negative. What is more, using a variety of teaching methods is important to keep children engaged and cater for different learning styles. We recommend restrictions on both the amount of time spent using screens and the type of screen time pupils are engaging in. After all, “not all screen time is equal” in terms of educational benefits.

Positive screen time

There is a lot of fantastic online educational content that encourages lesson participation as opposed to passively observing which is less stimulating for many children. As children become more adept at using technology, it builds their self-esteem. And when they know what they are doing, they have the confidence to share what they have learnt. Some positive ways for children to use their screen time as active participants include:

Asking a question such as ‘How can we create a sustainable garden in our school? and getting pupils to research it. Learning how to use search engines effectively is a valuable skill, and teaches children to explore and navigate online as well as to analyse the reliability of what they find. The internet can help children to develop research skills that are essential for their learning as they head into Key Stage 2 and beyond.

Writing a blog about their daily life. Some children find word processing more natural than writing by hand. In our opinion this should not replace learning to write but nonetheless, word processing will be an extremely important skill in almost any profession. If pupils enjoy formatting and designing documents on the computer, this is a good means of boosting their enjoyment and performance of the task.

Using educational apps to promote engagement, test skills and knowledge of specific subjects, create challenges and set goals. Some platforms, which include games and apps, have been designed specifically to encourage thinking and questioning. This can be done as a treat or reward for good work and at the end of the term.

Getting to grips with coding by using an app such as Scratch Jr or a device like a Raspberry Pi for interactive independent activities such as creating films, music and websites. Whereas in the past, children were taught simply to be operators of computers who could use programmes like Microsoft Word, now, they are now taught to be the creators. It is true that children quickly overtake older generations with their technological prowess! There are huge opportunities for children to develop their computer programming  skills (an important part of the national curriculum).

Reading books on a screen is equally as beneficial in terms of developing comprehension skills as reading printed books. And there are advantages such as expanding vocabulary. Many electronic reading devices come with inbuilt dictionaries which enable pupils to look up unfamiliar words with ease as they read.
Using YouTube to learn a new skill such as knitting, drawing cartoons or origami or to explain concepts that they are struggling to understand.

Teachers who encourage pupils into more active and engaged screen time alongside their ‘leisure digital time’ at home, can help to provide them with a brain workout that could one day pave the way to a career in technology.

To ensure pupils are as ahead of the game as they can be, Cranmore have introduced the latest ICT facilities and lesson content into the curriculum…as well as restricting and monitoring it! You can read about how Cranmore are developing their pupils technological skills here.