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I showed my students how to improve their focus

What is your biggest struggle for your students?



Why are you so worn out? One of my third-graders, Robbie, who had bed head and was slouched over his desk, was the one I questioned. Were you awake all night yesterday?

He nodded.

Why were you doing that?

(Pause.) Fortnite is being played.

I gave a headshake. I had already discussed this topic with one of my pupils. I was actually experiencing it more regularly. How late did you wake up?

He was unsure. “Three.”

“On a night of classes?”

That game is awful.

Screen saturation is a growing worry for parents and educators in today’s digital age. The American Heart Association advises parents to limit their children’s daily screen usage to no more than two hours. However, a comprehensive survey by Common Sense Media revealed that, excluding time spent using screens at school, children aged 8 to 12 spend, on average, close to five hours per day using screens, while teenagers spend, on average, nearly seven and a half hours per day. It’s an astonishing statistic. These figures increased dramatically as COVID-19 spread throughout the nation and children sat in front of their computers at home. Screen time increased dramatically.

A number of difficulties, including as sleep disorders, obesity, mental health problems, low self-esteem, depression, aggressive behavior, and worse academic performance have all been related to spending too much time on digital gadgets. Kids spend less time outdoors, being physically active, and learning social skills as they spend more time in front of computers. It has been hypothesized that excessive screen time can hinder kids’ imaginative play by overloading their senses with entertainment.

It’s no secret that technology items are made to be extremely sensual. Technology use raises dopamine levels, the chemical most closely associated with addiction. Digital health professionals have dubbed screens “electronic cocaine.” Also, our children are abusing drugs. If you work with kids or have kids, you undoubtedly have it. When told to stop viewing his favorite shows on the phone, a friend of mine’s seven-year-old throws a breakdown. It happens very frequently every day. An additional friend received a call from her daughter’s school informing her that there was cause to suspect that she had stolen an iPad from the tech cart. Her mother did indeed locate it. Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the top addiction specialists in the nation, has revealed that in his clinical work with kids, treating crystal meth addicts was occasionally simpler than treating video gaming or social media addicts.

Teachers are also personal witnesses to the issues with technology. We observe the students who struggle with writing on paper but can’t stop watching the nearby YouTube videos. When children use instructional applications that closely mimic video games, we notice the trancelike expressions on their faces. We see kids who struggle to concentrate, have erratic attention spans, struggle to finish books, and only want to write about Minecraft. We observe pupils who are disinterested and apathetic until they are engaged. Many educators, particularly those in middle and high schools, are aware of the distraction that cellphone use causes among pupils. My acquaintance teaches six classes of roughly thirty students each during the school day. One day, she requested from her students in each class how many notifications they had received throughout the course of the lesson. The sums from these six classes are as follows: 21 on Facebook, 29 on Twitter, 58 on Instagram, 74 on YouTube, 352 on Snapchat, and 996 by SMS. the following six classes’ sums: 21 on Facebook, 29 on Twitter, 58 on Instagram, 74 on YouTube, 352 on Snapchat, and 996 on text.

Students now spend a lot of time in front of screens in the classroom. For instance, it’s not unusual to see third-grade students using apps like Freckle to practice math, tapping away on iPads during writing time, reviewing spelling words with SpelllingCity, reading e-books on Raz-Kids during silent reading, and doing internet research for social studies. After that, they finish their online schoolwork at home. The quantity of screen time for kids only rises as they age. Children use these devices for entertainment, of course. There is no respite for them.

Parents are resisting. Parents are requesting less screen time, not more, from school boards around the country. They are pleading with school authorities to provide screen-free or low-tech classes. Some parents are moving their kids from schools with a lot of technology to ones with fewer options. Others are homeschooling their children and completely yanking them out of school. “Low-tech parenting,” as my friend refers to it.

However, how else can guardians and parents address this issue that is (literally) right in front of us? It’s challenging given our growing reliance on technology. Here are a few safety nets that I used in the classroom and will help families use technology more wisely.

Don’t let technology blind you first. There is a widespread presumption among parents (and teachers) that anything involving technology is automatically superior. It is claimed that if children are not glued to their screens, they would not be able to compete in the current world. There isn’t much solid data to support the claims made by educational technology businesses that technology enhances student learning. The employment of technology in schools is driven by business, not by pedagogy. Kids don’t seem to retain more information while reading from screens compared to books in my experience teaching. I have never discovered an app that teaches math more effectively than an instructor.

The fact that Silicon Valley billionaires send their kids to low-tech schools is maybe instructive. One of the most prestigious private schools in the region, The Waldorf School of the Peninsula, prohibits kids under the age of eleven from using electronic devices. Instead, the school instructs the kids of Facebook, Apple, and Google in cooking, knitting, and go-cart construction. The teachers at the Waldorf Schools don’t appear to be concerned about their students’ future readiness. Neither are the parents. They are aware that businesses in the twenty-first century are seeking graduates who are inquisitive, organically motivated, can think creatively, and can solve issues rather than those who can create a PowerPoint.

Second, discuss screen time honestly with your children, just as you would with them about smoking, bullying, or doing drugs. Even young children can participate in this conversation. Children who own cellphones today have an average age of nine. I would emphasize the drawbacks of spending too much time in front of a screen during class discussions. We would discuss how kids who use their devices excessively might not want to play with their peers as much, produce things, read books, or spend time outside. Children understand it. They observe their siblings and classmates going through this.

Third, bring up your concerns at the parent-teacher meeting if you have any regarding your child’s use of technology. Teachers can be useful. When it came up in my class, I discovered that several parents believed they had everything under control but actually didn’t. Some were unaware. Some acknowledged that they had no idea what to do. I’d offer the following advice if a parent asked for it: 1) Be aware of the games and shows your child is watching. several don’t; 2) Establish no-tech zones throughout the house, such as the bedroom, dinner table, and automobile; 3) Have kids do their homework in a visible area, such the kitchen table; and 4) Limit internet usage at home by assigning them a password with a time limit. 6) Be a stickler for the rules (some kids figure out how to get around this); and Have a consequence for kids who break them, such taking them offline for 24 hours. I’d also suggest giving the parents these alternatives to TV, video games, and tablets: Legos, books, and sports.

Fourth, having youngsters keep track of their weekly screen time is a good method to get them thinking about it. The next week, challenge them to see if they can bring the amount down by repeating the exercise. Screen time is like eating calories. Every time you start adding them up, something surprises you. I requested my students to pull out their computers one week while they were using devices to track their class time. Could we manage without them, one child cried to Mr. Done? The entire class concurred. They were focused on surpassing the previous week’s total. Encourage older children to monitor their social media usage. Kids are frequently shocked by how long they spend in the virtual abyss.

Consider occasionally taking a tech-free day as well. Naturally, you would need to avoid the screens as a result of this. One Friday when we were not allowed to use screens in class, one of my third-graders came in from recess and saw me using the phone. She waved her finger at me, shook her head, and then complained to the other students in the class.

Fifth, to keep youngsters occupied and quiet, parents and instructors frequently offer them a tablet or laptop. Instead, offer them enticing substitutes, such as watering the garden, constructing a fort, creating a book jacket, organizing your backpack, getting on a bike, or making butter by pouring heavy cream into baby food jars and having them shake them until the cream transforms into butter. Beware: Some children may start to complain that their arms hurt after a short while. We occasionally give kids technology as a reward. Open the door instead of the computers if you want to treat the youngsters. Next, lead them outside.

Finally, think about organizing a screen-free competition with your children in which you ask them to refrain from using any devices (outside of school) for a few days or even a full week. Give them a prize if they succeed in the challenge. Participation in my competitions was voluntary. The majority of my students would start the challenge, but as the week progressed, a growing number would withdraw. They would cite YouTube, the Disney Channel, video games, and Netflix as justifications when I’d ask them why. When Dancing with the Stars started airing on TV, a young girl informed me she was doing fantastic. That killed her.

Have your kids prepare a list of everything they can do without using a device as part of your no-screen competition. It serves as a pleasant reminder that there is life outside of screens. Ride a bike, chase pigeons, slide down the stairs, and stand in another room while your brother is playing Fortnite, but don’t look, were all on Robbie’s list one day while I was reading his list—the same Robbie who was going to bed at three in the morning. Listen only.