Ipads in the Classroom: Good for Mental Health?

I was recently interviewed for a story about using ipads in the classroom.  It’s a hot topic around these parts (Northern Colorado) as the school districts are – for the first time ever! – distributing ipads to all students.  I think most people agree that this is pretty cool, and a sign that our schools are keeping up with the time.  Sure, there will some glitches to work out and some naughtiness that will most definitely occur, but most folks agree that schools need to embrace technology.

But, here’s the angle I didn’t think about until the reporter asked me: “Does ipad use in the classroom count toward a child’s daily allotment of screen time?”

Hmmm…excellent question.

My first thought was “no” because kids are using ipads, presumably, as a learning tool when they are in school.  But the more I thought about it I wondered if a screen-heavy classroom necessitates a screen-lite home life?  After all, it’s more physical activity and in person interaction that we are aiming for when we set screen limits, right?  It’s a tough question, and one that will likely answer itself as the school year wears on.

Here are some of my thoughts that appeared in the article in the Johnstown Breeze:

But is using an iPad all day healthy for children?

“It can definitely be part of a psychologically healthy classroom,” said Smith, who has more than 10 years of experience in the field. “… It can be a wonderful complement.”

Smith said moderation is the key. She said parents should work closely with teachers to be sure about how the iPads are to be used at home. She also said that parents should put strict limits on entertainment screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of entertainment screen time a day for children and teens.

“We need to be careful of not having kids on screen, TV, iPad too much,” she said. “Technology in the classroom can be useful when it’s part of the instruction, not a babysitter.”

Should I Take My Child to a Psychologist?

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Making the decision to take our kids to see a psychologist can feel huge.  And it is.  Particularly because we are usually making that decision in times of stress, worry, and frustration.  Very few people sign up for therapy when life is going well.

So, how does a parent know when a trip to a psychologist is warranted?

They ask.  Believe it or not, therapy and mental health has become such a part of popular culture, that kids often ask their parents if they can see a psychologist, counselor, or “go talk to someone.”  If your kids are asking, it’s probably a good idea to oblige.

Their behavior has changed.  All kids change, grow, and go through different phases as they age.  But if you notice particularly concerning or abrupt changes in your child’s behavior or emotions, it’s probably a good idea to get it checked out.  Some examples might include: increasing isolation, significant irritability, tearfulness, lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, prolonged trouble with friends, sudden refusal to go to school, marked change in grades, or change in ability to get along with you and/or siblings.

There are more bad days than good ones.  Family strife can creep up on us.  Sometimes we don’t notice how much of a struggle togetherness and getting along has become.  But if you stop and think about it, and then realize there are more fights and angry exchanges going on than you would like, it might be time to get some assistance.

Your gut tells you to.  Mother’s (and father’s) intuition is usually right.  We are pretty good at paying attention to it when we have newborns, but sometimes lose track of it as our kids age and become more complicated.  So, it you’ve been thinking about giving therapy a try, it’s probably a good idea.

Some things to keep in mind about therapy:

  • It doesn’t mean you are weak or a bad parent.  In fact, it can mean the opposite – that you are aware, engaged, and taking an active role in your child’s life.
  • It doesn’t have to last forever.  In fact, many folks attend just a few sessions of therapy before noticing significant improvement in family life.
  • It doesn’t mean your child will be “labeled.”  Because of confidentiality laws, psychologists cannot disclose what is discussed during appointments, or even if you attended one at all (with a few exceptions).