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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Screen-time - What We Do and Why

Deciding how much we let our children watch TV, or play games on the computer, or spend time in front of a screen is an issue that all parents have to consider. Families vary from those who allow their children unlimited access to the TV or a tablet or computer, to those who have almost no screen time at all.

We probably fall into the relaxed end of the more restrictive families! Our children have a limited amount of time watching the TV after tidying up and before tea each day (usually on catch-up, so that we can chose what they are allowed to watch), plus 10 minutes each a day to play on the ipad. We will occasionally watch films together too.

In addition, there are a small number of educational activities for which the children use the computer. My older two both do a little coding using Scratch, and also practice their touch typing. My 7 year old uses an online maths program called Maths Whizz to supplement his core maths curriculum. They all occasionally use the Squeebles app on my ipad, which helps them with their times tables, and my older two use a free app called Quizlet to help them revise their Latin vocabulary.

I'm pretty happy with the balance that we have at the moment. The children know what they are allowed to do, and almost never ask for extra screen-time in any form. This means that they have plenty of time for other activities - playing, drawing, making up stories, craft, going to the park. I don't want them to find that they have suddenly lost a couple of hours to Minecraft without really realising it, which is why we have pretty tight restrictions.

I don't, however, see any kind of watching or playing on the computer as a "necessary evil". If I though it was an out-and-out bad use of time, I hope I wouldn't allow it at all! So, here are a few of the good reasons that we let our children watch television:

1. It's fun. Letting our children snuggle up on the sofa together and watch something at the end of a busy day is good because they enjoy it. Often what they choose to watch makes them giggle rather than think deep thoughts, but that's okay - there is a time for both.

2. It's social. Our children watch and enjoy together, and are often still chatting about something they have watched the next day. Also, they talk to their friends about certain programs they have seen, and they bond over this shared knowledge and enjoyment.

3. It sparks creativity. From drawing pictures of Octonauts when they were little, to the make-believe games that they play together, the television that they watch together - as well as the books they enjoy - are a source of inspiration. My eldest is particularly creative, making board games and picture in abundance.

Dr. Who Monopoly board, made by my 10 year old.

Dr. Who Monopoly

4. It's educational. Although this isn't the main reason I allow the children to watch TV, it is clear that the television that they enjoy has had incidental educational value. From facts about the ocean to some great stories to new vocabulary, they have definitely learned while they have watched.

That's the balance at the moment. I'm sure we'll have to adjust as the children get older and circumstances change, but it works well for now. It means that screens, in various forms, are part of our lives, but don't dominate them.

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