In this digital age, parenting with technology is even more complex. We keep talking about striking a balance between screen time and real personal interactions. But what exactly is the formula to this balance? How much is too much? What if the app claims to be educational? Do we limit that as well?
A Barcelona study, which was published in the journal Annals of Neurology, underlined the importance of setting rules and limits. After looking into 2,442 children ages 7 to 11, those who played video more than one hour daily experienced behavioral problems (note it does not prove direct cause though). Kids with limited gaming time to an hour or two a week got cognitive benefits, such as developing faster responses to visual cues and hand-eye coordination.
"It is a fact that our children expend a relevant proportion of their time in front of a screen, which may be good and even necessary. Nevertheless, a time limit is arguably recommendable, as is the combination of gaming with physical or outdoor activity and the supervision of video gaming’s potential effects on children's socialization," said lead study author Dr. Jesus Pujol of the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona.
While the study focused on video games, the results can apply to all kinds of screens, such TV, smartphones, and computer.
In an effort to help parents find that balance, we asked Katherine Faith Maddela-Bustos, Ph.D., a high school English teacher in Nueva Vizcaya General Comprehensive High School (NVGCHS) and a 2016 Most Outstanding Teachers Awardee of the Metrobank Foundation, on how she sets the rules for her two sons.
Dr. Bustos is an advocate of the blended approach, or combining old school teaching skills with digital tools to better engage "millennial" students. One of her tips in setting screen-time guidelines is to involve the kids when you make the rules. Though this can apply more to older kids, Dr. Bustos says, it is important that kids understand their limitations and the reason behind the restrictions. The kids will appreciate our efforts when we explain.
The discipline should start early. "During the formative years, play allows kids to learn habits that are very beneficial for both themselves and their family as well. This is the perfect time to inculcate valuable practices with how they use gadgets. Learning through play is crucial," Dr. Bustos explains.
Dr. Bustos also says parents need to know what the kids are doing on their gadgets. "You should not be left behind," Dr. Bustos stresses. Playing video or apps with your kids will help you get to know them even more. Talk about the characters of the games they play, how they gain points, and make them explain the strategies of the game. You can even relate your own stories of the games you played, too, when you were young. "You should learn how to talk their language," Dr. Bustos adds.
When it comes to choosing apps that help student's learning, Dr. Bustos shares her top five apps that she and her sons use for learning and also for fun. Some of these apps do not sound "educational"--call us surprised--but she also explains the reason why she chose them and the learning kids can acquire from them.
1. Build their vocabulary. Dr. Bustos highly recommends the mobile app of Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus. "This app provides the ‘word for the day,' and it includes the etymology or history of the word itself. The games are set to quiz one’s knowledge of the different words," she says.
2. Develop their decision-making skills. Yup, this teacher says Instagram helps in this regard. "In the psychology of learning, this apps aids learners in developing their decision-making skills by choosing the best photos before they share online," Dr. Bustos explains.
3. Develop their problem-solving skills. If you can see beyond its addictiveness--which is why setting limits is crucial--Crush Saga, says Dr. Bustos, is a strategic game that helps develop problem-solving skills.
4. Teach them spatial thinking. One app that can do this: Waze. Dr. Bustos says apart from developing the skill of following directions, kids unconsciously learn how to be alert as well as gain concepts of distance.
As with anything in life, anything in excess can be bad. Technology has its advantages, and it's up to us parents to teach our child balance so it becomes a tool in learning and overall development.