Along with the recent launch of the Digital Technologies-Hangarau Matihiki curriculum, it has been announced the New Zealand Government will spend $40 million on raising teachers' skills to deliver it.
The new curriculum will involve all pupils from Years 1 to 10 taking part in digital technologies education, meaning screen time will naturally increase.
The new content will cover two key areas – computational thinking and designing and developing digital outcomes – which are likely to include computer programming, as well as unique Maori content.
While there are many, unquestionable benefits of technology and screen time, too much can be detrimental to young minds and health.
Too much or poor quality screen time has been linked to a range of effects on physical, mental and social health, such as: obesity; irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep; behavioural problems; loss of social skills; and an increase in violence.
There are many things educators can do to help reduce the effects of too much screen time during school breaks, and for guardians of students, at home.
Communication is a priority – helping the children to understand why too much screen time, on top of the curriculum, can be destructive.
· Talk to children about the disadvantages of high levels of computer game use, social media and TVs in ways that they can understand
· Have a timer on computers or internet access to stop their use at a specific time
· Make sure children cannot access mobile phones or games consoles after bedtime
· Prioritising social and family time
· Lead by example – educators and parents should limit their technology use around the children
· Praise children when they make good decisions about viewing time
· Encourage outdoor play and social activities
· Provide good books, board games and toys to engage children and encourage children to use them
· Encourage children to have interests and hobbies and spend time actively pursuing them
· Supervise and monitor which TV programmes are watched and which sites your children can access on the computer - don’t allow unsupervised access
· Occasionally check what computer sites children have accessed and talk to them about it
· Provide computer games that encourage activity and physical movement, such as the Wii
· When watching TV or movies in class, plan an activity during the breaks such as running on the spot, jumping jacks or ask who can do the most sit-ups
· Have screen-free days, maybe one day a week, and have screen-free times each day
· Set rules about screen times on school days and non-school days with rewards for cooperation and consequences for non-compliance or arguing and enforce them consistently
· Use computer programmes to log screen time, limit sites children can access and shut computers down after the time limit for the day is reached
· Spend 15-20 minutes every day with each child playing, talking or doing something that they want to do that does not involve screen time
· Talk to children about adverts, product placements and images supported by the media that do not reflect reality - encourage children to be discerning and spot poor media practices, such as using celebrities to promote products, and the use of skinny models in adverts
· Encourage children to think critically about what they are watching.