Are you a parent who takes time out of your week to help your kids get through a mountain of homework, prep for an exam, or understand concepts they learned in class? Are you a parent who has elected to homeschool your child(ren), so that they can get the best education?
In either case, providing the support your child needs to succeed means traversing a massive landscape of education resources to decide which ones can best help your child accomplish their learning goals. It also means selecting resources that help you promote good screen time for your child.
Methods of teaching and learning that encourage being outside, collaboration, hands-on activity, and being away from the screen are vital to a well-rounded education. But so are methods that prepare young people for success in a world that relies so heavily on digital technology. Whereas new media were formerly viewed largely as entertainment avenues, they are now extensions of the learning and living environments.
Whether it’s home school or homework help, ensuring your child is confident and accelerating when it comes to digital literacy is key.
In case you’re wondering what the heck digital literacy is, it’s the usage and comprehension of information in the digital age (Gilster, 1997). Digital literacy encompasses the knowledge, understanding, and skills required for participation in our digital world. The abilities to use today’s range of connected devices (smartphones, tablets, computers, and more!) and to navigate the channels they connect to, such as social media, in a responsible and efficient manner are also essential to digital literacy.
So, how do you help your child achieve a high level of digital literacy without them spending too much time with their nose pressed to an iPad screen? In short, the key is to set limits for the amount of time your child can spend on connected devices and then ensure that a portion of this screen time is good healthy screen time.
Deciding how much screen time is too much can be a challenge for anyone who isn’t a pediatric doctor with a thorough understanding of the risks associated with children and screen time. Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics met last fall to decide on suggestions for 2017 screen time caps. Here’s what they came up with:
Children 2 to 5 years: one hour per day (CNN).
Children 6 years and older: limit digital media. According to Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report” and assistant professor at UCLA, an average day for a healthy kid includes “school, homework time, at least one hour of physical activity, social contact and sleep — which is anywhere from eight to 12 hours for kids. Whatever’s left over can be screen time” (CNN).
While the screen time that Chassiakos refers to is digital media for entertainment purposes, it’s still important to set a reasonable limit for all forms screen time, even if it’s for academic purposes. This is due to the fact that too much blue light too close to bedtime can harm sleep and that not all learning should happen via digital device.
As for the good healthy screen time I mentioned earlier, there are plenty out there you can share with your child to promote learning – even during entertainment time. New screen time rules for kids, by doctors features some suggestions for children from 2 to 5 years old and for children 6 and older. Additionally, I wrote a blog post on the Skooli blog in December 2015 called Facilitating positive relationships between children and technology with good screen time that brainstorms some ideas. A couple of my favorites include coding and minecraft.
My article also mentions online tutoring, which is the one I want to talk about here. Not only is online tutoring a great way for kids to engage in meaningful, strictly educative screen time, it’s also an incredible tool for parents who homeschool or for parents who spend several hours each week helping their child(ren) with homework. I work at the online tutoring platform Skooli, and I wanted to share a couple stories of parents we’ve met to exemplify how it can fit both with the homeschool parent and the after-school homework helper parent.
We’ll start with the homeschool parent.
I was making customer phone calls one day – checking in with a handful of our students and parents to see how they were finding their experience with Skooli and learning a little bit more about why and how they found us. One parent who I spoke with – we’ll call her Kathy (yes, I Googled “common mom names”…) – had a very interesting use case. She lived in California and worked alongside her husband to homeschool their children. Her older son was a very talented musician, so a solid chunk of his school time was actually spent practicing his instrument, which left smaller windows to cover all of the subject matter he needed to know in order to qualify for a top college. Kathy and her partner were both experienced educators and together, they covered the subject range handily through almost all of their son’s high school journey. It was only the high level math they used an online math tutor for. She told me that it was a great fit because they were able to take a break from teaching while their son used his computer to engage in good screen time and to learn one-on-one with a licensed high school math teacher.
Next up is the after-school homework helper parent. Meet Moira:
Moira lives in Stewart BC, a small town of only approximately 500 residents situated on the Alaskan border. Here’s what she told me about getting started with Skooli online tutoring:
“I work full time. I was spending four hours a week helping (my son) with his math homework. Usually I could find solutions to his math problems, but I wasn’t always able to explain how and why I found the answers. The way I tried to explain solving problems was different from how his teacher explained it — homework was taking a long time and was sometimes very frustrating.”
As a result, Moira began to seek tutoring support for her son. She chose Skooli as an online tutoring option due to the fact that both the school of approximately 80 students and their small town didn’t have the academic resources her son needed.
In the end, she got her evenings back. After spending two very frustrating hours with her son’s math homework every Tuesday and Thursday, Moira freed up over four hours a week and reduced her stress level in a significant way. Oh, and her son scored 100% on a math test for the first time ever (you can read about her son’s entire online tutoring experience here).
Online tutoring is an eco-friendly (paperless and no transport required) way for busy parents to bolster their children’s education while promoting good screen time and a high standard of digital literacy. Parents get to save time and their kids get to learn one-on-one with certified teachers in a safe online environment.
About the author: Brett Montrose is an academic enthusiast at Skooli. He is passionate about education, tech, startups, politics, and outer space. In his free time, you can find him running on the Vancouver seawall, at the hockey rink, or hanging at the beach.