Digital distraction: Should parents feel guilty?

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Today’s post comes from Education Speaks editorial board member, Jill Aurora.

Many parents face the challenge of trying to keep their kids entertained while they get some work done around the house, wait for the bus, or run errands. And in today’s high-tech society with its seemingly ubiquitous smart phones and iPads, reaching for one of these tools as a diversion has become a regular solution for some parents.

My family is a prime example of this, and if hard-pressed I would have to admit that most of the apps on my iPhone are for the entertainment and edification of my six-year old.

The key word in that last sentence is”edification.” I find that I’m OK with my daughter playing games that I consider educational. And it turns out I’m not alone in that. This article from the Hechinger Report outlines a small study that shows that parents don’t feel all that much guilt over screen time with iPads and other touch screens. And parents who think that the apps are educational are least likely to feel guilt.

There are also many online education tools out there, and fantastic training like the masterclass series, which admittedly is more suitable for older students.

And what kind of apps, you might ask, do I consider educational? When my daughter was younger, games that taught her to trace letters and numbers and helped her learn basic phonics fit the bill. Now that she’s a big-shot first grader, I try to push games that help her practice her math-fact fluency, spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary. Interesting to note: She’s getting to an age where she recognizes that I expect her to be learning while she is monopolizing my iphone, and suddenly she isn’t as interested in playing with it as she used to be. Or she’ll say, “Can’t I just play Angry Birds instead of having to be learning all the time, Mommy?”

Silly girl. We parents all know that Angry Birds teaches physics. I think I’ll let her figure that one out for herself.

How do you feel about letting your kids play with smartphones and iPads? Does your perception of the “educational” value of an app or game change how you feel about the time your kids spend using them?