The more time our children spend with screens, the less time they spend interacting with others or in hands-on, creative play, which are both proven to be important for learning. Screens were invented in an era that came after Maria Montessori developed her learning methodology but what we do know is that Montessori-style learning encourages:
- Freedom of movement from birth
- Independent play
- A purposeful, prepared environment (that supports child development)
- Environmental manipulation – a hands-on, sensorial relationship with home, school and nature.
Screen time in excess or without specific rules and boundaries (as part of a home life routine) has the ability to impede these Montessori-based principles for optimal child development and learning. Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield launched a practical ‘digital 5 a day’ campaign last year that is practical for families living in a modern, techno-centric world; reflecting the concerns of parents as well as children’s behaviour and needs. Based on the NHS’s evidence-based “five steps to a better mental wellbeing”, have a look at the commissioner’s five simple steps to healthy use of screen time:
As children grow up, maintaining friendships and family relationships online will become part of life; it’s important to have a conversation with them about who they are connecting with and their privacy settings. Remember to keep a dialogue open and talk to your child to understand how they’re spending their time and so that they can come to you for help should they need to.
(Whilst many of our children are simply using a screen to watch their favourite TV shows or play their favourite games, it’s still important to make sure we have the appropriate privacy settings in place – on whatever screen they might be using.)
- Be active
Activity is very important for mental well-being and all children should have time to switch off and get moving. In other words…it’s not just about switching the screen off but replacing the time with something fun and active.
- Get creative
The internet provides children with unlimited opportunities to learn and to be creative; time spent in front of a screen doesn’t have to be spent passively consuming content. It can be educational, creative and can provide opportunities to build skills for later life.
- Give to others
As well as using the internet to learn about how to get involved with local and national charitable schemes, children can give to others through their everyday activities by giving positive feedback and support to friends and family as well as reporting the negative behaviour of others.
- Be mindful
Being mindful about the amount of time that your child is spending in front of a screen or online (and encouraging them to be mindful about how this makes them feel) is important, as is figuring out ways of managing this together.
Our dream as parents, is for our children to live a life of balance; where they spend time exploring their world – through reading, running, playing, observing, engaging, socialising and, yes, learning from the digital world, too. If we lead by example and are sure to invest time and energy in our children – their passions and interests – we’ll be well on the way to nurturing a successful, well-rounded, happy little person.