The use of Google ClassRoom and other online tools to continue with classes, tutoring via Zoom or Skype, digital books, reference websites, virtual tours of a cultural nature, educational YouTube channels. Since schools were closed as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 crisis, the educational scenario has completely changed.
Now, children must rely on ICT to be able to continue with the course, and some parents fear that their children’s use of screens throughout the day is excessive. But is there reason to worry about it? Do the hours that children spend connected to the computer or tablet for their virtual classes also count when controlling the maximum time, they must spend in front of the screens?
We have spoken with education experts, Emma Duffy and Neil Tetley. The first is the director of Early Years of the British school Hastings School, and the second is the director of the centre. Both have extensive experience in the use of technology as a fundamental part of the education of students, and have wanted to contribute their vision in this regard.
Is there a maximum screen time if we use them for pedagogical and educational purposes?
Both experts agree that an exact amount of time cannot be established, although a series of principles should prevail with regard to virtual classes:
- On the one hand, they consider it important to find a balance between online learning and offline learning. To do this, teachers must be involved in the search for motivating, creative and fun activities for children to do without the need for screens.
Some more traditional examples would be reading paper books, doing crafts, or doing exercises in pencil and then scanning or photographing them for review by teachers. But you can also resort to ingenuity by proposing manipulative math exercises or science experiments that can be done at home, to give an example.
- For older students who do much of their work in front of screens, experts believe that teachers should ensure that the activities they are doing are properly designed and productive.
- As for physical exercise, until now they had been resorting to online sessions to practice sports from home. But now children can go for a walk and enjoy the air and the sun, so it is important that physical education teachers encourage and motivate children to be active, away from screens for a while.
- If even so, parents consider that their children rely excessively on computers, mobile phones or tablets for their classes, or have difficulties using them productively, it is advisable to speak with the school to find other alternatives adapted to each particular case.
In any case, Emma and Neil advise keeping in mind the recommendations made by official bodies on the maximum screen time depending on the child’s age. In this sense, its use is not recommended for children under 18 months, and for children between two and five years of age, the maximum time should be one hour a day and with high-quality programs.
In older children, they remind us that excessive and uncontrolled use by parents can lead to very serious problems such as:
- Consumption of inappropriate content for age
- Less hours of sleep and physical activity
- Increased consumption of junk food
- Greater chance of being victims of cyberbullying
Group video calls and virtual tutorials, yes, or no?
Video calls are becoming a way to reunite children with their teachers and classmates in this new educational setting. But not all parents agree that their children use the webcam or programs for virtual meetings.
The experts consulted are in favour of this type of tool, since they consider that they contribute positively to the affective and social development of the child in these delicate moments, in which they have been suddenly separated from their friends and figures of reference at school.
“At Hastings School we have live online sessions even for three-year-olds. In these cases, the duration is 15 minutes and with a maximum of four students. We find these virtual sessions to be beneficial from a social point of view.”
“Children enjoy seeing their friends and interacting with their teachers. The older the students, the more live sessions they get and from the age of 11 almost all of our classes tend to include some live component, even if it’s just the teacher saying hello at the beginning of the class or saying goodbye at the end”
For Emma and Neil, online sessions is a Digitalize Vision that bring two great benefits:
- The first is educational, since certain topics are better explained through a videoconference
- The second isemotional, since online learning contributes to isolation and it is essential to include tools that facilitate social contact
Should parents be present in our children’s virtual classes?
To be or not to be present in the children’s virtual classes? This question drives many parents crazy, who consider it important to supervise what their children do while they are connected to the Internet.
In the case of children in Early Childhood Education and the first years of Primary School, both professionals advise that parents be present in the virtual sessions, not only to solve any technical problem that may arise, but also to offer children security and confidence in a totally new scenario for them.
However, they consider it important that adults stay on the sidelines during class, and that they do not answer through the children’s mouths, prevent them from making mistakes or do the work for them. As our children grow, parents must encourage their autonomy by avoiding intervening and controlling excessively , although undoubtedly, supervision must always be present .
“Screens themselves are not good or bad”
And finally, the experts want to send a reassuring message to parents at this time, encouraging them not to worry too much about the time that children spend in front of the screens if the online activities they carry out are positive and productive.
“In other countries where children have not attended school for a long period of time, it has been seen that good quality online learning has not only not affected teaching, but there has been no evidence of time-related side effects that the students have passed in front of the screen”. You can pay someone to do my online class.
Even so, they remind us that this experience we are experiencing is new for everyone, and that good online teaching requires time, reflection, planning and feedback from students and their families, with the aim of continuing to improve.
“These are difficult times, in which it is essential to accept that our children will spend much more time connected to the screens than perhaps we would like. But that does not have to be a bad thing if educational activities are carried out or used to socialize with friends”