BY JAIME DIGIROLAMO, M.S.
CERTIFIED SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST

The use of technology during school breaks

With the arrival of summer vacation, we welcome a time when children need more supervision and entertainment. How does the use of technology play a part? It is our job as responsible parents, caregivers, or guides to put children on the right path at an early age regarding technology and its many uses.

Should they, or shouldn’t they?

If you decide to allow your child to use technology, some questions arise. How often? How long? How much? At what age? For what purpose? The average American child soaks up over seven hours a day of media in the form of television, computers, video games, and other devices. While many parents want their children to be prepared for a world becoming increasingly dependent on technology, recent studies have shown that so-called educational television for children 24 months and under is not beneficial. Increased exposure to media may actually harm development for children of all ages. Of course, we want our children to be included in all possible learning opportunities. We also want our kids to be able to relate to other kids, in terms of the technology available. Ideally, we want to balance our children’s use of devices with some good old- fashioned fun. It seems like the majority of children spend too much time indoors on their iPad, phone, Xbox, or PlayStation. Kids today may not know what it’s like to go and just ring the doorbell at a friend’s house and ask if they can come out to play. Kids should be exploring, making up games, and playing at the park. They connect via technological devices from their respective homes and consider that hanging out.

How young is too young?
Research indicates that screen time can be addicting. According to research done at the University of Michigan, it is not how much time is devoted to technology but how children use their time on these devices that is the real concern. There is no minimum age for using technology. Toddlers are using touch screens today at home, at daycare, or preschool. However, between the ages of 2-6, children’s brains are like sponges and their large and fine motor skills are still developing. This makes play essential. Limiting screen time to less than two hours a day for all children is a good start. However, parents may want to steer clear of media for their children as much as possible until kindergarten.

Entertaining Children
Let’s be honest! As parents of young children, many of us have employed the aid of some connected doodad to bring peace to our households. In today’s world, that aid is nearly always available. If technology allows an otherwise dedicated parent to get some things done around the house, or keep a child occupied while in a waiting room, is that truly the worst thing in the world? Although distraction is sometimes necessary for parents of young kids, children need to learn more internal ways of calming themselves down and keeping themselves entertained. If you find yourself saying “This is the only way I can get my kids to calm down,” you may want to reconsider your approach. Occasionally handing your phone over to a crying child may not be the worst thing in the world. However, parents should be aware that their quest for a quick-calming method may actually be making their children fussier in the long-term.

Setting Guidelines:
Your children depend on you for knowledge and guidance. Perhaps this is the perfect moment to teach them moderation, one of the most valuable lessons in this new world full of everything, immediately, and always.

  • Limit tech time to allow more time for play in the “real world.” Research shows children learn more quickly through face to face interactions with parents and other caregivers.
  • When children are watching TV, parents need to stay involved. Parents should watch videos with children, ask questions, and provide descriptions of what’s being shown, promoting a “language rich, socially interactive” experience.
    Hold a family meeting where screen time is on the agenda. Discuss a technology management plan that you can enforce. Get the kids to buy in by offering better alternatives and by discussing the downsides of too much screen time.
  • Plan daily activities. After morning responsibilities are met, give kids choices of fun activities they can do outside or that keep them creative and active (socializing with friends, going to the beach or park, playing sports, doing arts and crafts, or baking).
  • Get comfortable with complaints of boredom. Regardless of whether they have a swimming pool, tennis court, or a stable full of horses in the backyard, most children will complain of boredom from time to time. It is developmental and something kids do because they want to be entertained instead of learning how to entertain themselves. Boredom also allows time for kid’s minds to wander and for them to be naturally creative.
  • Expect initial pushback, regardless of the amount of screen time you allow. Children outwardly oppose limits, yet inside they crave them. Try not to give in to a child’s complaints in this case. Instead, ride out the storm and know that they will accept your authority if you commit to following through.
  • Be a role model. Designate screen-free zones and times that you, the parent, enforce and follow the rules as well. Parents can be great role models for limiting screen use.

Desde el nacimiento de nuestros hijos, en nuestro hogar siempre se habló dos idiomas. Somos padres de dos nacionalidades distintas y hablamos idiomas distintos. Nuestra meta fue hablarles a nuestros hijos en nuestra lengua natal de modo que ellos crecieran inmersos en dos idiomas. Pero el resultado fue comunicaciones bilingües. Nosotros hablando en nuestra lengua natal y ellos respondiendo en inglés. ¿Entender, nos entienden? ¿Por qué simplemente no pueden hablarlo? También sabemos que nuestro caso no es aislado. Muchos padres parecen experimentar la misma situación.

¿Qué hemos estado haciendo mal?
Tal vez, no hemos tenido en cuenta herramientas importantes que pudieron haber facilitado a nuestros hijos su aprendizaje.

Nuestros hijos entienden un segundo idioma, pero se niegan a hablarlo. ¿Cómo llegamos aquí?
La respuesta no es una y pueden ser variadas, y hasta algunas veces conllevar factores externos como problemas en el aprendizaje o problemas del tipo emocional. De todos modos, el factor más frecuente y en el cual nos queremos enfocar en este artículo es el de no pedir ni esperar de nuestros hijos, o niños a nuestro cuidado, una respuesta en la lengua que tratamos de que asimilen. De esta manera, se crea un tipo de intercambio comunicacional donde el utilizar dos lenguas en una misma conversación es el pan de cada día.

¿Qué nos lleva a esta situación de no esperar respuestas en la lengua que se está aprendiendo?
Sabemos que hablar una segunda lengua lleva más tiempo, y por lo tanto, la falta de este, la falta de paciencia, las distracciones del momento, el creer que no nos entienden pueden ser los desencadenantes de la situación.

Aquí algunas sugerencias para hacer del aprendizaje de una segunda lengua un proceso placentero y efectivo:

• Hable en su lengua natal y preste atención a que le respondan en ella. Si su hijo/a no lo hace, puede ser que no se sienta seguro o cómodo. En ese caso, dé Ud. la respuesta y pida que la repita. De esta manera, estará dándole la confianza que necesita para expresarse. Al principio esto puede resultar abrumador para ambas partes, pero no se desaliente ya que es la clave primordial para el éxito.
• Focalice en frases específicas y refuércelas regularmente o hasta que Ud. vea que se vuelven rutinarias. Por ejemplo: una semana puede trabajar con las frases “me gusta…” o “no me gusta…” acompañándolas de alimentos, vestimenta y deportes entre otros. Otra semana puede centrarse en “necesito…” o “no necesito…”
• Cuando el niño ve televisión, que sea en la lengua que están aprendiendo. Netflix tiene la opción de cambiar el audio a múltiples lenguas.
• Si tiene la posibilidad de que sus hijos participen en reuniones con amigos en las cuales todos hablan esta segunda lengua, preste atención a que durante la misma se practique este lenguaje ya sea durante toda la reunión o durante lapsos.
• Otras actividades útiles son las de asistir a eventos en otras lenguas y participar de clases individuales o grupales de idioma.

RECUERDE
Sus hijos no son bilingües por el solo hecho de que entienden lo que escuchan, sino que también deben poder hablarlo.

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