Monthly Archives: March 2017

Live and Learn: Screen Time For Your Child

Panyaden student on computer at school
Screen time: is it bad for your child?

by Panyaden International School Head Teacher, Michel Thibeault

Michel Thibeault, Panyaden International School Head Teacher
Michel Thibeault

If you thought too much time playing video games, surfing the Internet or sharing on Facebook could negatively affect people, well, you are right! In fact, the negative effect has been so well documented that compulsive internet use has officially been classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Associationi. But alongside all the scary stories about children and technology, there are many of us who see the benefits of introducing computers to children. So, where do we draw the line?

Computers are a great tool

They can provide so much information in a dynamic, interactive platform. From listening to books and helping young readers build their skills, to educational games, and finding information on a topic of interest, computers are helpful. Not to mention the fact that they keep kids quiet and gives us a break! But at what price? Is there more than meets the eye?

I know my child can focus: he can spend hours playing computer games

Well, this “focused” time is misleading. In fact, studies now show that time spent in front of a screen is detrimental to a child’s capacity for attention. What’s happening is that computer activities and games tend to provide fast-paced action with immediate feedback, usually in the form of rewards. This in turn produces dopamine in the brain, the “pleasure” drug. Developing an addiction to it makes it more difficult to cope with “slow” activities, such as reading a book, figuring out a maths problem or listening to a teacher’s explanations. The first three years of life are particularly critical: tablet or smartphone time hinders the development of the area of the brain responsible for social interactions and the growth of empathy and, consequently, the ability to make friends.

Dr. Aric Sigman, from Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, adds that “when very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. … Parents who jump to screen time in a bid to give their kids an educational edge may actually be doing significantly more harm than good. (Parents) need to dole out screen time in an age-appropriate manner.”ii

In the words of Adam Alter in ‘How Technology Gets Us Hooked’, “You start playing because you want to have fun, but you continue playing because you want to avoid feeling unhappy.”iii The famous Minecraft computer game is a good example. It is apparently responsible for a large number of kids developing a dependence on screen time. “That’s right — your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs. No wonder we have a hard time peeling kids from their screens and find our little ones agitated when their screen time is interrupted. In addition, hundreds of clinical studies show that screens increase depression, anxiety and aggression and can even lead to psychotic-like features where the video gamer loses touch with reality.”iv

This is an extreme example, of course, but if excessive screen time is leading kids even a short distance down this path, it is worth taking a long view. Will our children be lacking in any way if we cut down their screen time? Let’s consider a few examples: Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enrol their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales!

At school, teachers have backed up these findings. A quick informal survey confirmed that most teachers can identify children who spend a lot of time on video games and those who don’t. The key factors? The inability to concentrate and the need to do tasks that come with immediate rewards.

What can we do?

Live and Learn: Screen time for child. Students in computer class, Panyaden International School
Panyaden students in computer class

Computers and smartphones are not going to go away so we have to find a way to get the most benefits and the least detrimental effects possible. Here’s how we use computers at school:

  • A couple of times a week, students might go to a classroom learning station with peers where they view a short video clip or complete an online activity set for about 15 minutes.
  • As a class, students might view a short video once or twice a week on a specific subject. Videos will typically last from 3 to 15 minutes.
  • Upper primary students might be researching information for their classroom project. This is one of various opportunities they have to learn and practise the critical thinking skills needed to analyse the validity of the information found.
  • We expect primary students to spend about five minutes at home a few times a week using Xtramath.
  • Until they can join the first language level classroom, our ESL students are enrolled in “Raz-Kids”, an online programme that allows them to listen online to books at their level before trying to read them by themselves and then answer a five-question quiz. This typically represents about 20 minutes of screen time.

Here are a few ideas that could be used at home:

  • Limit screen time. Excessive screen time does not only lead to physical inactivity, dullness of the senses and restlessness, it takes away opportunities to relate with other family members, make use of one’s natural surroundings or simply to be with one’s own thoughts. Agreeing with your child on a reasonable amount of screen time per week (and sticking to it!) not only reduces his time on the computer or TV but also teaches responsibility by making your child part of the decision-making process. A basic guideline is that, the younger the child, the shorter the allocated time should be, with no screen time before the age of three. Consider the ratio of time you currently spend actively communicating with your child every day and the number of minutes he spends in front of a screen. What is this ratio right now? Does he spend more time in front of a screen than with the family?
  • Create “screen free zones” in your house. We recommend starting with a child’s bedroom. Limiting the use of a computer or smartphone to common areas in the house will help you monitor your child’s screen time, both in terms of duration and content.
  • Allow your child to get bored! Yes, it’s good to be bored! It’s when a child is bored without a computer/TV screen that she’s more likely to engage in games that will require focus, patience and creativity.

As with everything else in parenting, the challenge is to model what we say and to be consistent in enforcing what we believe in. With computers as with everything else, practising Mattanuta, knowing the right amount, is a good idea!

iIn May 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, officially added “Internet Use Disorder” (IUD) to its list of health issues (see: Wired Kids: How Screen Time Affects Children’s Brains)

iiPsychology Today, 17 Apr 2016, What Screen Time Can Really Do to Kids’ Brains

iiiThe Guardian, 28 Feb, 2017, How technology gets us hooked

ivFamily First New Zealand, How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies

Panyaden Year 4 & 7 Social Contribution and Camping

Panyaden Year 4 & 7 social contribution day at Huay Tung Tao
Panyaden’s Year 4 and 7 students pick up litter at Huay Tung Tao as part of their social contribution before enjoying a dip in the lake. Then it was off to Monthathan waterfall to make camp, play games and cook their own dinner under the evening skies. More photos here on Panyaden’s blog gallery.

Panyaden primary students picking up litter at Huay Tung Tao Chiang Mai as part of their social contribution Jumping into the lake, Panyaden students at Huay Tung Tao Chiang Mai Panyaden students enjoy a dip at Huay Tung Tao lake Chiang Mai Panyaden International School primary students cooking their dinner at camp

Panyaden Kindergarten Festival of Learning

Recycled paper binoculars made by Panyaden preschooler_MG_8120-logo
Fun Festival of Learning at Panyaden

Sharing, exploring and learning together.Sharing, exploring and learning together. Panyaden’s preschoolers enjoy a variety of nature-inspired art and creative recycling activities at our mixed-age kindergarten Festival of Learning. Check out the photos in Panyaden’s Kindergarten Festival of Learning image gallery.

Panyaden Kindergarten student makes recycled paper, Panyaden Festival of Learning Panyaden's preschoolers painting outdoors at school, Festival of Learning Preschoolers outdoors, Panyaden Festival of Learning Panyaden nursery measuring water for Panyaden Preschool Festival of Learning Preschoolers recycle dry twigs and pods to make art during Panyaden's Festival of Learning

Panyaden Youth Theatre: Seussical The Musical

Panyaden Youth Theatre performs Seussical The Musical at school

Panyaden Youth Theatre performs ‘Seussical’ The Musical

What a treat! Panyaden Youth Theatre presented its first ever public production of ‘Seussical’ The Musical on Friday. It was also the school’s first ever full-length musical. The students worked really hard over the last few weeks and were clearly excited portraying the colourful characters in this wacky musical for their parents and friends. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Well done to both the cast and stage crew. Photos here on Panyaden’s image gallery.

Panyaden Youth Theatre's production of Seussical The Musical - Jojo, the main character Panyaden Youth Theatre's production of Seussical The Musical - all the characters! Panyaden Youth Theatre's production of Seussical The Musical - Solo by Panyaden primary student Panyaden Youth Theatre's production of Seussical The Musical Panyaden Youth Theatre's production of Seussical The Musical - presentation of flowers to music/drama teacher Parents and friends enjoying Panyaden Youth Theatre's production of Seussical The Musical at Panyaden International School

Panyaden Youth Theatre Presents
Panyaden Youth Theatre presents it’s first ever production of ‘Suessical’ The Musical

The show by Panyaden student Youth Theatre is about a young boy named Jojo who has been thinking too much and a brave Elephant that has to save a tiny world that lives on a speck of dust! The students have been working extremely hard and are excited to present this to everyone on Friday, 17 March, 2017 from 4-5pm. Tickets  are now available at the school gate after school and at the Panyaden office: Adults, 100 baht; Children, 50 baht. See also our school Events page.

Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017: Kindergarten 2

Panyaden social contribution day 2017 - Kindergarten 2 students cleaning up at Baan Sala community shrine

Kindergarten 2 Cleanup

Panyaden Social Contribution Day. Kindergarten 2 Butterflies put Wise Habits Metta-Karuna (being kind and compassionate) and Caga (being generous) to good practice by doing their bit for the Baan Sala neighbourhood. Our young students helped to clear fallen leaves and swept the public area clean at the community shrine. Click here more photos of the cleanup in Panyaden’s blog image gallery.

Panyaden K2 social contribution day 2017 - student sweeping leavesPanyaden K2 social contribution day 2017 - students sweeping and picking up fallen leaves Panyaden K2 social contribution day 2017 - students cleaning up at Baan Sala community shrine Panyaden social contribution day 2017 - Kindergarten 2 students at Baan Sala community shrine

Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017

Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017: Year 3 and 6 students at Huay Kaew waterfall Chiang Mai

Panyaden students gives back to the Chiang Mai community

In the spirit of giving back to our community during Panyaden’s annual Social Contribution Day on 2 March 2017, Year 3 and 6 students hiked up Huay Kaew Waterfall to clear garbage left behind by picnickers. The cool, clear waters of the waterfall were an added bonus! On the same day, Year 2 and 5 spent a day being big brothers and sisters to the little ones at Viengping Children’s Home drawing fun pictures, making crafts together, and playing games. They enjoyed reading a book aloud and sharing their favourite stories with the children. Our students also brought along books and toys as gifts for their new friends. Visit our Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017 image gallery or click on the white box below for lots more photos.

Panyaden Social Contribution Day: Year 3 and 6 at Huay Kaew waterfall Panyaden Social Contribution Day: primary students clearing rubblish at Huay Kaew waterfall Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017: primary student clearing rubblish at Huay Kaew waterfall Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017: primary student enjoying the water at Huay Kaew waterfall Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017: students enjoying the water during their break from clearing rubbish at Huay Kaew waterfall

Reading a story aloud, Panyaden primary students at Viengping Children's Home for the school's social contribution day Panyaden primary students at Viengping Children's Home for the school's social contribution day Panyaden International School students at Viengping Children's Home for our school's Social Contribution Day 2017 Panyaden International School students playing games with the children of Viengping Children's Home for Social Contribution Day 2017

Panyaden Social Contribution Day 2017