Try a screen-free summer

Teachers explain why kids should put down their screens and get outside

Brad Flickinger. CC BY 2.0. Image cropped. 

Summer vacation equals lazy days with few commitments and the allure of screen time to keep children entertained can be hard to resist. But with evidence growing that long periods on devices damages children’s social and cognitive development -– not to mention fitness and gross motor skills – it is worth taking a moment to consider how best to negotiate summer’s many unstructured hours without screen time becoming the go-to entertainment solution.

Time Out Beijing Family spoke with two classroom teachers to get their take on this important issue.

A Balanced “Screen” Diet

Jose Tapia

Grade 3-5 learning support teacher

Beijing City International School

Have computers and devices become tools which enhance our lives or have they become a hindrance to actual ‘FaceTime’?

As an educator of 12 years, I see how the use of technology and devices have affected children and education. In most cases, the use of tablets, phones and devices is not moderated enough.

In the United States children spend an average of 21 hours per week viewing television, not including time spend playing video games, browsing the internet, or doing homework online. I’ve seen the implications of this in the classroom.

Children spend less time playing outside and interacting with each other and consequently are not developing the critical interpersonal skills that are built when playing with other children: taking turns, communicating, listening, learning to lose.

Technology and devices are not all bad, however. As a Special Education Teacher I work with a lot of students with autism. Most lacked communication skills. Some had no language at all. I relied on technology to help these students communicate. It made my teaching work easier and my students’ lives much happier.

But there has to be a balance.

As technological advances are made and the latest gadgets are released, we must keep an open mind about how they can be used to improve education and quality of life…with moderation of course!


Kelli Cochran Grade 2 ELL Teacher

Beijing City International School

What are our children are missing out on when they occupy so much of their time with technology?

They’re missing the chance to explore their surroundings and make connections with the world. They’re missing the chance to move around and get the outdoor playtime they so desperately need.

Lack of movement and real-world exploration can create sedentary habits that are very difficult to break.

Children worldwide, and specifically in Beijing, are experiencing a rise in rates of obesity. A lack of opportunity to burn calories can be partly attributed to our intense dependence on technology. Sedentariness and obesity can create self-esteem issues which impact student’s ability to form healthy relationships with their peers.

In the classroom, it can be noticeably difficult to get students to participate in oral discourse as they aren’t developing the same active communication practice as they do when they’re out interacting with the world.

Health and self-esteem are predictors of the overall happiness of our children. As parents, let’s consider this: when we have an iPad in one hand and a bucket and shovel in the other, which is most likely to make our children happier and healthier? ■

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