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Danielle Corbin: Celebrate digital learning with less screen time; power those devices down

Considering the prevalence of screens in our lives — be it television, laptops, tablets or smartphones —it’s easy to feel as though our children are overindulging on access to technology.

In reality, according to a study conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund, children’s average daily screen time has held steady -— at a little over two hours -— for years.

Does that mean parents shouldn’t be concerned about the amount of time their children spend on digital devices? No. Put simply, it’s an indicator that screen time is not an entirely new phenomenon.

As is the case with nearly everything we consume, with digital technology, moderation is key. Just as we understand the difference between consuming a glass of soda per week and a two-liter bottle of soda per day, the same approach should be followed for screen time. In fact, in moderation, time spent wisely in front of a computer or on a smartphone can stimulate intellectual development.

As National Digital Learning Day approaches — Thursday, February 28 -— it’s a good time to think about how much access children should have to technology.

Today, more than 98 percent of households with children under age eight have access to a mobile device, according to a parent survey conducted by Common Sense Media. While the average overall screen time for children hasn’t changed in years, there have been substantial increases in the time children are spending on handheld devices—from five minutes a day in 2011 to 48 minutes a day in 2017.

If you’re concerned about your young child’s screen time, think about how you introduce digital technology and how your child interacts with technology as they grow. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t allow your child to watch television until they’re in middle school or force them to lock-up handheld digital devices in the evening.

Instead, be mindful of what programs your child has access to, and how much time they spend with digital media. Teaching your child to view digital technology as a tool and they’re more likely to be creators of technology instead of consumers.

Parents of preschool-age children should also consider how their child’s preschool approaches the use of digital technology. Digital devices can be an excellent resource for supporting intellectual development—helping children learn shapes, sizes, letters, numbers and many other elements critical for success in school—but personal interaction with teachers and peers is essential to each child’s academic, social and emotional growth. That’s why we limit screen time at Rainbow Child Care Centers, giving our students substantial time in group learning exercises.

Beyond actual screen time usage in the classroom, a preschool’s overall approach to learning could have a substantial impact on how reliant children become on digital devices moving forward. For preschools like ours that subscribe to the whole child approach -— focusing on the body as well as the mind through exercise and appropriate nutrition -—-screen time takes a backseat to playing outside, where children learn through experimentation.

This National Digital Learning Day, I encourage families to celebrate the role technology has in supporting development, but consider doing so with the digital devices powered down.

Danielle Corbin is district leader in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky at Rainbow Child Care Center, a leading provider of academic-based early childhood education.

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