Technology in Montessori Learning
Be honest: how much of your day is spent looking at screens? Do you text or type more than you engage in verbal conversation? In the past week, how many times have you been so immersed in what is happening on a computer that your eyes physically hurt when you finally look away?
We are not here to judge or shame anyone for time spent online. Digital media is built into so much of the modern world, many of us would find it difficult to completely avoid screens. Utilizing online resources is often the best – and sometimes only – way to complete work tasks, connect with peers, and quickly access information to navigate everyday situations. By all means, look up current hours before you head to the store. Facetime with a friend. Relieve stress by playing a game on your phone. Take an online class. Denying yourself convenience, pleasure, or knowledge serves no one. The sweet spot is finding a balance between utilizing online media and staying connected to your family life. Remember that your relationship to the digital world sets an example for your kids!
And what about your child’s Montessori education? Does using current technology go against the standard curriculum? Not necessarily. While Montessori methods emphasize hands-on learning, digital literacy is necessary for your child to successfully navigate higher education and the labor market. To address this, many Montessori programs find appropriate ways to integrate devices as supplemental learning tools. Students are encouraged to explore and experiment with the real world to figure out the answer to a question. A subsequent online search can provide anecdotal evidence to support a self-determined conclusion, or it can lead your child to rethink their response. Either way, they are active participants in their lessons.
So how do you and your kids develop healthy boundaries and habits when it comes to using phones, computers, tablets, game consoles, and televisions? Let’s explore some ideas.
One common house rule is screen-free meal times! Make all shared meals about enjoying each other’s company. It’s much easier to connect when you’re not competing with a TV show or a family member’s phone notifications.
Another routine to establish: put electronic devices away at least two hours before bed. Studies have shown that even passive viewing of screens close to bedtime leads to poor sleep because it stimulates the brain. Additionally, the blue light of many devices is bad for your vision and your sleep! Because it mimics sunlight, blue light can throw off the internal body clock and make it difficult to wind down. This could lead to a number of sleep issues.
Avoid using devices as a “babysitter,” to occupy your child while you are busy. This could cause them to reach for a digital device for distraction or comfort when they are anxious or upset, instead of verbalizing issues to you, a teacher, or a trusted friend. Excessive screen time can impede your child’s social skills.
Plan regular media-free family activities! Play a card game, bake some bread, kick a soccer ball around, compose a song, build a fort, paint a room, read a book, find shapes in the clouds, or look at the stars. Find a shared experience that doesn’t involve staring at a screen! Long periods of online activity can obstruct healthy physical development and lead to a sedentary lifestyle, resulting in weight gain and avoidable health issues.
Have a discussion with each child about setting an appropriate amount of online time. Ask what they think is reasonable. Come to an agreement based on age, how much device use is necessary for schoolwork, and what other media they access to connect with friends or pursue their interests. An agreed-upon guideline will help develop their self-regulation skills.
Use a screen time monitoring app (we recommend unGlue, Qustodio, or Net Nanny)! You can set time limits according to your agreement. If you have safety concerns, select an app that allows you to track and moderate content. Using such an app does not have to be intrusive or punitive. Think of it as a way to gauge your child’s actual device usage time, and update your agreement accordingly. Your child can also use the app to hold themselves accountable for their online activity.
Talk to your kids about using social media safely and responsibly. Discuss the potential risks of texting, posting pictures on social media, and interacting with strangers online. Address the possibility of screen addiction, cyberbullying, and personal details being widely shared.
We are all susceptible to negative side effects of overexposure to the internet, but devices are not the enemy. They provide access to an endless stream of information, countless sources of entertainment, and multiple avenues to connect with people all over the world. Set an intention to approach technology mindfully, and you can strike a balance between your digital and natural worlds. And with your support and guidance, your kids can make smart, deliberate choices about their online activities as well!