Times have certainly changed, and “screens” have certainly changed. When our children were growing up, there was a huge debate about how much TV time was healthy for growing children (this, after years of debate even on how close little ones could safely sit from the television screen...some of you may be old enough to remember that...)
Nowadays, there is much debate about how much screen time is safe for developing minds and bodies, at what age, and what kind of screen time. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I have been following this debate closely, and recently found a blog on this topic that I believe is quite sensible. The blog by Scott Taylor in the January 31, 2018 publication EdSurge (Technology in School), entitled Enough With the Screen Time Scare! Be Sensible About Children's Device Use gave me a lot to think about, and I hope it will give you a lot to think about as well.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Taylor charges us to remember that all screen time is not created (or used) equally. He says, “Digital devices are tools. They are not inherently good or bad. Rather than setting time limits on screen time, we should set limits on certain kinds of screen-based activities. Think of devices and their uses on a spectrum. On one end sit activities that are 100 percent passive, like watching a movie. On the other end sit activities that are much more active, like Skype, Facetime, or other communication tools. In the middle, we have software, games and apps of varying educational quality.”
Mr.Taylor also cited a study published in December of 2017, which found no correlation between parents’ adherence to screen time guidance and their children’s wellbeing.The lead researcher of this study, Dr Andrew Pryzbylski, of the Oxford Internet Institute, stated that “our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time. Future research should focus on how using digital devices with parents or caregivers and turning it into a social time can affect children’s psychological well-being, curiosity, and the bonds with the caregiver involved.”
Though electronic devices provide many positive experiences, there are negative consequences as well. On the downside of excessive screen time usage, several studies have suggested that an increase in online time may not necessarily be a good thing. A National Public Radio segment (SHOTS: Health News from NPR) studied some of the ill effects of excessive online time here, Increased Hours Online Correlate With An Uptick In Teen Depression, Suicidal Thoughts. It cited the research of Joan Twenge in Clinical Psychological Science which found that “increased time spent with popular electronic devices — whether a computer, cell phone or tablet — might have contributed to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts over the last several years among teens, especially among girls” (who tend to use social media more excessively than boys. Boys are more likely to use online time for computer games, etc.). Though Twenge sees excessive screen time and symptoms of alienation as correlated, she can't prove one causes the other, but she thinks the findings should be a warning to parents.
So...in weighing the pros and cons of screen time, what are parents and educators to do? I believe that our kids (at all ages) need help with these tasks related to online usage:
Past President, WATG
As a long-time parent and teacher of gifted kids, I am often asked by kids (and their parents) about those transitional years for gifted readers, the years when these readers have outgrown reading many of the “younger kid” books, but aren’t quite ready for the teenage and beyond books. These transitional readers may be capable of reading at very high levels, but may lack the emotional maturity to deal with some of the subject matter of advanced reading, and so finding “good reads” for them is often difficult.
Some things that we know about gifted readers are that:
The author of this article, Ness Riedel, describes the difficulty in finding a good read for transitional readers in this way: “It can be hard for 10-, 11-, and 12-year-old readers who read at a high school (or higher) level to find books that meet their reading needs but are still appropriate for their age and experience. For readers like this, I worry less about what Lexile or Guided Reading level a specific book is and look for books that will offer them a chance to go deeper in their thinking about characters and situations. Here are 14 books that are loved by young readers on Bookopolis.com that offer unique character voices, complex plots and themes, and high page counts to engage fifth and sixth grade advanced readers.”
The article goes on to describe 14 “good reads” in four categories -- fantasy and science fiction, mystery and realistic fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction.
As a practitioner, I have read and enjoyed many of these books, and have shared them with parents,teachers and kids. I hope that you and your gifted middle school readers will enjoy them, too.
As always, I look forward to your comments and suggestions. Thank you for joining me in this foray into using other perspectives to helping us understand giftedness.
Past President, WATG
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think