Children in the Elementary program are learning to choose how they invest their time, and digital technology becomes more accessible as an option. Computer or tablet access can be helpful for Going Outs, connecting with friends, and research; however, it’s certainly not the only way for children to hone their processing skills. Evidence for development of executive functioning is much more profound when it comes to learning to play a musical instrument, rather than any iPad or computer game that purports to do the same.
As a general framework, parents can scale technology use to their child’s abilities. Consider: can your child read fluently and write effortlessly? John Snyder, a longtime Montessorian and prolific writer, argued that if both those conditions are not met, your child still needs limited, supervised (or assisted) time using the computer. Keep in mind your child’s time management, social inclinations, and critical thinking skills to help determine the guidelines you set as a family.
Though Montessori education does not assign what we would classically think of as homework, there are many ways your child can spend valuable time off (and on!) the computer or iPad. In conferences, open houses, or even at the very start of the year, you may have seen a list of Montessori Home Work suggestions. Students are encouraged to (before picking up or sitting down to the nearest screen) check out this list to see how to spend their time more wisely.
When your child does opt for tech, pediatricians and educators typically suggest a comprehensive hour of screen time every day for Elementary children, spent in creative, purposeful ways. Whether it’s building code or looking for the hours and exhibits at the Fine Art Museum, your child should practice using technology as a tool, a means to an end–not an end in itself. This limits the idle time potentially spent on screens during which children can become subject to the documented darker sides of tech: cyberbullying, jealousy, anxiety, depression, etc.
Your child not only wants agency in making decisions about her own life but also engagement in the decisions being made for your family unit. For example, think about ways in which the convenience of keeping an updated Google calendar on your phone may limit your child’s access to know what’s happening in her own life. Is there a way to display events, meal plans, or to-do lists in a shared family space in addition to keeping them in the Cloud? In order to make sure you’re walking the walk, think about making a Family Media Plan (see template at the end of this newsletter) and including your child in the decision-making process. It’s just as important that the adults in your child’s life use technology in a healthy way as it is for the children themselves.