Screen Time: Is It Really A Good Thing?

Screen Time: Is It Really A Good Thing?

There is little in the parenting (and teaching) world that causes more disagreements than the right (or wrong) amounts of screen time that we should give our children.

And the truth is, it’s not an easy path to navigate.

There is no road map for us to follow, quite simply because for most of us these are decisions were not decisions made by our parents. We have no idea how the decisions we make now will pan out into the future.

The decision is further complicated by the fact that not all screen time is created equal.

Channeled properly, screen time can be an excellent way to teach our children and students new skills, a way to engage them in learning in a way that pen and paper never will. A way to show them that learning can be enjoyable.

Whether it’s writing stories, learning timestables or developing problem solving skills via Minecraft. You’ll be surprised at just how much screen time can teach.

It can be used by our children to isolate themselves but can also be an incredible tool for communication.

So often children on the Spectrum find it difficult to use the telephone, they get anxious about face to face interaction and find group work a struggle. But the massive wealth of apps and sites out there mean it has never been easier to facilitate interaction. Whether it’s collaborative work on a school project, whilst each young person stays in the comfort and security of their own homes. Or a way of reducing anxiety by talking to peers about outfits to wear on a school trip.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to work on face to face interaction. But it does mean that we shouldn’t dismiss these alternative ways of communication and collaboration. We may not have used them in our own childhoods but that doesn’t mean that they are a bad thing.

When the world gets overwhelming, screen time can provide comfort  and predictability.

Video games can provide much needed escapism, a way of finding control and comfort. We all need down time, and our children are no different.

We need to meet them half way.

If we want them to enter our world, to engage with people to explore new places and to interact with new friends, then we need also to give them chance to retreat. A chance to engage in an activity that is predictable, and welcoming. An activity where they can escape from their everyday lives and be who they want to be.

The key is to ensure that the content is positive and monitored.

Children on the Spectrum often find it difficult to judge the nuances of face to face conversations, but online that becomes even more difficult. Teaching them the skills needed to be safe online, and encouraging openness from an early age is key.

Comments on YouTube videos, and online chat during games, can be a particular issue. Parents often check the videos the child is watching but not the comments they are reading. It’s also too easy for those to misunderstood and used in the wrong way in other circumstances.

The student who made a sexual comment after watching a film made by a peer in class is a case in point. He genuinely believed, having seen it crop up often on YouTube, that it was a compliment. He has no idea of its real meaning. But has he been in a different setting his comment could have received serious consequences.

But just because screen time comes with these difficulties, that doesn’t mean we just forget that it is an incredible resource.

It is a brave new world. One that we must conquer alongside our children.

And that is hard – especially given that they are often far more skilled at it than we are.

But the fact that it is hard, the fact that we are anxious about it, shouldn’t mean we don’t tackle it.

Our children deserve us to be open minded, and to look towards the future.

Because the reality is, whether we like it or not, screen time in one form or another will be a huge part of that future.

What Next?

If you do want to learn more you might find our autism section a useful place to start. It’s full of different strategies to try out.

Our online autism courses are also a great place to learn more.

Or why not join our private Facebook Group, which brings parents and teachers of children on the spectrum together to discuss strategies to help at home and at school.

If you join our tribe at the bottom of the post, you’ll receive a weekly email containing autism strategies and resources straight to your inbox.

And of course if I can be of any help then please just shout (or drop me an email).

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4 thoughts on “Screen Time: Is It Really A Good Thing?

  1. Have written before about YouTube and how it’s helped with communication for us – but as you say, there are the added difficulties. As parents we just need to work a little harder to stay on top of it. Sadly, none of us are perfect but discussing the dangers is a good way to go x

    1. Exactly that, it’s all about getting the balance. It can be such a hugely positive thing for our children x

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