In today’s technology rich age there are so many questions and opinions around screen usage for children, as well as questions around how much is too much. In my classroom I have developed some strategies and protocols to help manage device usage and to keep students engaged in learning through the use of devices and other technology.


Teacher As Model

In the Edutopia article How Much Screen Time? That’s the Wrong Question, by Beth Holland, it states:

In “Research Says Screen Time Can Be Good for Your Kids,” Jordan Shapiro, an edtech researcher, explains that teachers and parents often use restrictive mediation as a means to limit screen time. Through filters, parental controls, and the banning of devices, adults attempt to limit students’ screen time. However, in the process, they inadvertently send the message that adulthood equates to unlimited and unfettered access. Shapiro explains the need for instructive mediation—engaging with students to model desired and appropriate behaviors and interactions with screens. For students to develop the ability to understand the context of their device use, they need to observe positive social behaviors in the adults around them.

I feel like this is a top priority when it comes to teaching kids about positive tech interactions. We as teachers and parents, have so much influence over our kids even without saying a word. Your actions clearly do speak louder than words. That is why I am very intentional to make sure I model balance when it comes to technology. I try not to always be on my computer, iPad, or phone and I make an appoint to tell my students or kids why I am on it if it becomes necessary. I think having these conversations with kids about balance is really the first and most important step.

Strategies and Protocols

The first strategy our school implements is the signing of our Acceptable Use Policy. Our students do not just sign it without knowing what it means, but instead all teachers take the time to go through it with their class so they understand its importance, and then we ask both parents and students to sign that they will follow it. In my room I also teach specific digital citizenship lessons to help my class further understand this important topic. This is really the first step to making sure tech use in our school is effective. It really helps when we include students and parents to ensure we are all on the same page in regards to this.

Student created iPad agreements that I added to this poster I made on Canva.

In my individual classroom I also have some protocols in place to help things run smoothly. For starters before any tech is used in my room at the start of the year, we sit down as a class and create some classroom essential agreements around the use of tech in our classroom. When the students have agency in creating the rules, they are more willing to follow them. Secondly all of my tech is stored in one place and students only have access to it when I have clearly stated that it is time for using it. I also have a class job labeled the ‘tech expert.’ This individual ensures all iPads are back in the case after we use them each time and they also make sure that at the end of each day the iPads are plugged back it to be charged for the night. In an article I read this week it talked about having a few students become ‘tech support’ who help other kids with tech before they come to the teacher. I really like this idea and may add this to my class ‘tech expert’ job description as well.

In regards to when my students are using tech in my room there are a few things I do to ensure kids are all on task. First and foremost, I am buzzing all over the room at all times. When kids are on screens, I want to be able to see what they are doing to ensure they are on the correct application and completing the task I have asked. If teachers are not moving around the room, kids can easily go to a different application or search something off topic in a browser and you would not even know that it happened. If I do notice tech becoming a problem or not being used properly, then the individual or sometimes the whole class lose the privilege of using tech for the rest of the day. Because my expectations are very clear to my class, they are usually very willing to uphold them.

My Students’ Screen Time

So how much screen time is too much? This is indeed the wrong question. The more important question to ask is; what are kids doing when they use screens?

The article How much screen time is OK for my kid(s)? by Common Sense Media states it really well:

Kids are spending more time with screen media — and at younger ages — than ever before. But there really is no magic number that’s “just right.” What’s more important is the quality of kids’ media, how it fits into your family’s lifestyle, and how you engage your kids with it.

The idea of screen time as a one-dimensional activity is changing — even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), whose screen time rules had been strictly age-based, is recognizing that not all screen time is created equal. 

This research truly points to the fact that kids should be spending time creating not consuming media on their devices. In my classroom I try to ensure that this is the case when we use devices. Sometimes my kids are indeed consuming, but I am intentional to make sure that most of our time is spent creating instead. Here is a list of things I generally do to integrate screen use in different subject areas in my room:

Reading: E-book Fridays, sharing thinking with book snaps on Seesaw, sharing final projects on seesaw, reading for fluency and recording on Seesaw to see progress.

Writing: Publishing writing on Seesaw or other apps and commenting on others writing.

Math: iPad games, Mathletics, showing thinking using tools and recording on Seesaw, completing Seesaw assignments I have given.

Unit Of Inquiry: Sharing learning activities with others via seesaw, reflecting on our learning with comments about the Learner Profiles.

Tech Centered Activities: Specific digital citizen lessons, commenting, collaborating across the world with connected Seesaw blogs.

If you are in search of some apps to use that are better for creating than consuming, here is a great list my Technology and Innovation coach created that I use for myself, and that I also share with all of the parents of the students in my classroom.

I know I’m not perfect at managing devices for my students, but I am always striving to learn more about how to do it better in this fast paced world of change. I’d like to go back and reiterate what I said at the start of this post about balance being the true key. I am constantly aware and conscious of keeping balance in my room between tech and non tech based activities. Balance is not only important in regards to tech use but to life in general. So lets all teach our kids to be balanced so they can grow up to be balanced adults that make good life choices and enact great change in the world of the future.