Online Learning: Balancing Activities with Screen Time

picture of a student on a laptop

As online learning continues, it’s important to maintain a balance between screen time and activities.

Too much screen time can cause problems for children when it comes to sleep, attention span and energy levels. However, screen time can also be a positive influence, especially when it’s active and educational. We aim to ensure your child experiences the best of both worlds, with a good mix of activities and online learning.

We’ve created a Q&A with some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve received from parents about online learning and offline activities for their children.

Q: My child spends 4 hours a day online for education but also wants to watch videos and chat with their friends. How can I limit their time online?

A: There is evidence that children connect emotionally with their friends through their devices. Allow them the time to do so but set clear boundaries. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests creating tech-free zones or times. For example, not allowing phones during mealtimes, or once a week. They also suggest measures like limiting exposure to devices one hour before bed and requiring children to charge their phones outside of their rooms at bedtime. Consider which may work for you and your family.

Q: I feel like my child spends too much time in front of a screen. How is the school making the video lessons to combine with off-screen lesson time?

A: Our teachers continue to work hard on coming up with ways to make the online lessons in a way for the students to learn the lesson by video, but do the work offline. For example, if a lesson provided by a teacher is about a writing or reading skill, the off-screen work is where they practice and do the work. Math problems are being worked through by adding prices to household items and giving change, like in a real-life store. Students test science hypothesis using items like M&Ms to observe how to create patterns by pouring water on them or creatively writing their names with Legos, markers, toothpicks and other items. Other science experiments are performed offline and kids are having fun making a little bit of mess!

Q: Is it better for kids to be online in the morning or the evening?

A: Student’s brains are usually sharpest in the morning, after a good night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast. However, everyone is different. Studies show that children work best at their own preferred productivity times. If your child is more productive when working in the afternoon, then you should certainly collaborate with them to create a schedule that you’re both happy with.

Q: How often should my child take a break from the screen time and how long should breaks be for?

A: The National Institute of Health recommends that children under the age of 2 should have no screen time. For those over 2 years of age, screen time should be kept at around 1-2 hours a day.

When it comes to applying this rule to online learning, we recommend 20 minutes of class assignments followed by 10 minutes of physical activity for younger children. Older children and teens may be able to focus on assignments for longer stretches. Remember to help them take breaks between subjects. It is important for parents to understand that off-screen time can be the practice of the work being learned while on screen.

When thinking about your child’s screen time, it’s not all equal. An app that works as an educational tool is not the same as a video game. Building in breaks is important, and adding in physical activity and movement throughout the day is helpful, but each family might want to work that into their daily routines in their own way. Routines and schedules are really important right now, and it will also help kids and families better understand when it is a good time to be on screens, working, and when it is play, relax and chill time.

Q: I want my child to engage in more activities like crafts or physical exercise in order to reduce their time in front of a screen. How is this possible while making sure they are completing their online lessons?

A: The most important thing here is to put structure in place and think of some planned activities. It might be useful to intersperse those activities throughout the day – for every 1 hour of online learning time, put in a 30 minute activity session, such as jumping jacks in your garden or a quick game.

Q: Can you provide any examples of activities my child should do while not doing online learning? I still want my child to be active while also learning.

A: Depending on the restrictions you’re experiencing around time outside, try to ensure that you get as much fresh air as possible. Taking the dog for a walk, reading in the park or going for a run are all great options. If you’re isolating at home, you might like to organize activities such as treasure hunts, arts and crafts sessions, puzzles and educational games, as well as physical movement, like tag, hide-and-seek, or jumping jack challenges.

There are many resources with fun educational ideas for kids online. Consider, for example, making dinosaur shadow puppets, building paper models of space probe landers, and learning to write your name in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs alongside your children!

As you can see, there are many fantastic different ways to keep your children’s minds and bodies active during this period of online learning. We’re focusing on working through this together as a community. Thank you for reaching out to us with your questions. If you have any thoughts or any more questions, please feel free to reach out via our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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