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Let's Convene About Screens

Let's Convene About Screens
JohnEric Advento

The most recent Parent Coffee and Conversation in the Lower School engaged more than a dozen parents in the Oakwood Room convening about screens. Our newest faculty member, STEM teacher Mrs. Kim Mattappallil, and I led a conversation about some of the work that we are doing at W+H to support our students becoming digital citizens. Below are some highlights of the conversation:

We began with some questions to ponder:

  • What are the advantages of technology use by your children?
  • What are your concerns regarding technology use by your children?
  • Define “screen” time.
  • How do you envision technology in your home?
  • How much screen time is too much? Too little? Just right?
  • Can iPads be used for something other than gaming and entertainment?

A primary resource that we use is Common Sense Media, which has two major components: one for parents and another for teachers.  We use the educational curriculum that revisits ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) themes every year from Kindergarten up through 12th grade.  Because it is thematic, Mrs. Mattappallil has begun implementing each of the six lessons over the course of the school year.  What we are looking for is a common language around what the students are experiencing, as well as providing them the confidence to identify and address concerns.

In first grade lessons, students learn about  the "Internet Traffic Light", helping them understand how to assess "green sites" that are "just right" for them, versus "red sites" that are not appropriate.

In second grade, there is an emphasis on device-free moments, with rules for parents, too. A connection is made with how students behave in a new real world community such as a town park and how they share and process information online.

Third grade lessons introduce the Digital Citizenship Pledge, power of words, and rings of responsibility.

In fourth grade, students see how online activity affects one’s  digital footprint as well as how to be a Super Digital Citizen.

And finally, fifth grade lessons have students analyzing what they see online and determining what is real and what is not.

In all the lessons taught, the major emphasis is on making good choices. The school and home connection can reinforce what this means and what appropriate “next steps“ are when on the internet.

We discussed research out there by the following organizations:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • World Health Organization
  • American Psychological Association

It was a fascinating look at our own practices both as parents and what we allow our children to do. There was a conscious effort not to project our own personal values on others, while respecting their values if they were different.

Some questions we discussed were the following: How reasonable is this? What counts as “high quality”?  At 2, can we just throw the kids an iPad and let them have at it for 59 minutes?

High-quality programs have curricula that are based on comprehensive early learning standards, address the whole child, are developmentally appropriate, and are effectively implemented.

Emphasize that video calls are NOT included in this as screen time, particularly since 2020

All children will encounter screens in a variety of places.  It is helpful to prepare them for what they will encounter.

Family Media Agreements are for ALL family members - ask kids about what limits are reasonable and what they want from it.

We know that not all families will have the same limits, but that the community needs to agree on hard boundaries while respecting individual differences. One example we discussed: it is reasonable to agree that no first grade children should be talking to strangers on Roblox when they are playing together, but the concept of playing Roblox is an individual family decision.

Finally, we ended by recommending to families that one approach to support clarity of expectations in the home is to consider adopting a Family Media Agreement.