We live in a technological age where our children have grown up using the internet and swiping on the touch screen of a mobile phone is second nature for them. While technology can provide little ones with endless amounts of fun, it is also a hugely important tool when it comes to learning.
This became increasingly apparent during our recent lockdown period as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the internet, children have been able to have virtual classroom access and make use of various digital learning resources. However, as parents are all too aware of the internet, games and smartphones can be very distracting.
So on the one hand, we want to take advantage of all the benefits of online learning. On the other, we need to find a balance whereby some digital boundaries are put in place to prevent technology from becoming a mindless distraction for the little ones. Here are a few of our tops tips to help set these boundaries:
When you remove the physical divide between home, school and work, it is easier for the divisions to blur and for the day to become totally unstructured. Children benefit from having a set schedule or timetable, so online learning should be set up similarly to how a day would be at school. Make sure you set aside some time for the children to play outdoors, get some exercise, enjoy their meals and generally unplug from technology.
As is the case in school, make sure lessons are kept relatively short and sweet, especially when it comes to the younger kids. It’s hard to emphasise how important regular breaks are in a child’s learning process. A break away from the classroom, which in this case would be the computer screens allows students a chance to take a step back and process what they are learning. Experts have shown time and time again that taking regular breaks improves learning and productivity.
That said, it’s important to remember that breaks can quickly escalate from a few minutes to a few hours if children get distracted and aren’t monitored – this is why it is important to maintain a schedule of some sort.
Naturally, parents can’t always keep a watchful eye over their kid’s use of technology. Putting in place a good monitoring system that reflects the age and maturity of your child is a good starting point. Content monitoring programs like LearnSafe can be used to deter any at-risk behaviour and keep track of which websites or programs the children have access to.
Have a room or area in the house that is labelled a ‘Tech-Free Zone’, where no technology is present. This means that children are forced to find other forms of entertainment, perhaps in the form of books, toys or games. And remember the rules should apply to the adults too. Forcing everyone to unplug from their digital devices also provides a great opportunity for family bonding.
We all lead busy lives but set aside some time, perhaps over a meal, to have everyone unplug from technology. This means no smartphones or tablets at the table, and certainly no TV in the background. Use this time to check-in with the family and see how everyone’s day went or discuss what the kids learnt at school.
There is no doubt that technology and the internet are important learning tools in this digital age. If used effectively the impact these resources can have on a young child’s learning is profound. However, it is important for parents to understand that technology can be a double-edged sword and it’s easy for kids to use it as a distraction if they are left unsupervised. Setting some simple boundaries like those listed above should help you find a good balance.
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