In this podcast episode, Amanda discusses the negative impact of shaming kids and ourselves for screen use. She argues that screens can have benefits for neurodivergent individuals and others seeking community, and emphasizes the importance of cultivating a safe environment for students to communicate with each other in the classroom. Amanda also shares her personal experiences with therapy and the harmful effects of labeling behaviors as “good” or “bad.” She suggests having conversations with children to understand their screen use and interests, discussing internet safety with them, and incorporating screen time into the classroom. Amanda concludes by emphasizing the importance of not shaming children for their screen use and creating a supportive environment for them instead.
Students are addicted to their screens. They don’t know how to have a conversation anymore. All they ever want to talk about is TikTok. Do these statements sound familiar? These are things that I continually hear in schools, in teacher Facebook groups, and even in parent groups about, uh, their own children. I’ve had these same feelings as well. Everyone is scared. Adults are scared that screens are impacting kids negatively. And I know that there are big battles between, you know, teachers and students and parents and their kids around screen time limits limiting the amount that students are on screens. And this episode is really going to maybe challenge a lot of your ideas about screens and the negative impact that they’re having on children. I don’t deny that screens can have a negative impact and that they, that these games and these apps, these social media apps are all, they’re definitely, they were created to keep kids on them, to keep adults on them, and they have an addictive quality to them. I don’t deny any of that, but I do want to speak to what negativity around screens could be doing to our kids, and the harm that it could be causing.
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I have been in therapy for about five years now, and a lot of my therapy has been about good and bad, good behaviors and bad behaviors, and good food, and bad food. And in my mind, I grew up with a very clear line between what’s good and what’s bad. And I’ve had to undo all of that. I really have because thinking that something is really bad and then continue doing it and then beating myself up because I’m engaging in that behavior, whatever it is, eating too much junk food or spending way too much time working, or way too much time on my laptop or my phone. Those are, um, some of the things that I have talked to my therapist about a lot and, and really have had big challenges with, uh, especially overworking and just doing, just over-committing and, and doing way too much and burning myself out.
And I think a lot of teachers do that. They, they, and a lot of women, to be honest, you know, women just take on a lot. And I realized that, and maybe, you know, if you’re a religious person and you believe in good and evil, um, this is not gonna resonate for you. Uh, but for me, good and evil have, have really caused a lot, a lot of stress and harm in my mind. And because we all want to be good, and yet sometimes we choose bad behavior. We choose to do the thing that, we feel like we shouldn’t do. And I think that when we don’t leave room for nuance and for gray areas and for humanness and for the fact that we are, we are being, we are beautiful beings. We are good no matter what. And maybe you’re thinking, well, what about mass murderers, Amanda?
Well, I mean, that’s a whole other issue I’m just talking about. Like in general. In general, I believe humans we’re, we are part of the earth. If earth wasn’t around, we wouldn’t be around. We are from this earth, this planet. And because of that, we are just as beautiful as a setting sun over the ocean. We are just as beautiful as the twinkling stars. I’m almost about to cry and get emotional, just saying this. I, I I’ve really learned through therapy, so I’ve had help with this, that, that I am good no matter what I do, I am good. And I think that I’ve really internalized that and I’ve internalized, um, that about my students and about adults. And maybe you’re wondering, well, what the heck does this have to do with screens, Amanda? Well, screens have really become a tool to shame kids and ourselves.
I, I feel like the, the, the things that students do on their phones or on their iPads and, and adults too, I’m talking about adults too, a lot of times there’s guilt around it and there are feelings of like being bad and feeling like you’re not good enough. And I just think that this is more detrimental than what kids are actually doing on screens. And, this is all in my opinion, of course, but I just, I really, really have been wanting to record this episode for a long time. And I’ve just wanted to shout to the world, stop shaming kids for screens. Stop it. Stop shaming yourself. We are human and we are pleasure-seeking our brains seek pleasure and want to avoid pain. So of course, we’re gonna be so gravitated towards these devices that, that increase dopamine and increase pleasure. And I just, I I, I saw a Facebook post, um, in a, in a teacher group recently where a teacher said she was appalled at her student’s behavior when she told them like the last 10 minutes of class that they needed to talk to each other, to like to have face-to-face conversations.
And they, the reaction was some of them, you know, pulled out their Chromebooks and she said, no, no, no, no, no, everyone needs to put the devices away and like, have actual conversations. And she talked about how she was just appalled that so many students just disengaged and just like put their heads down on their, on their desks and that this was proof that kids don’t know how to communicate face-to-face anymore because screens are, um, are somehow taking these skills away. And I’m not saying that they’re not, but what, what an awkward position for kids to be in where they’re being forced to socialize. And we don’t know what kind of environment this is. You know, is it a kind, safe environment where kids, um, feel like they can be themselves? Um, and I’m, I actually responded and I said, please consider the neurodivergent point of view here, because I know a lot of kids and a lot of adults who have told me, and I have witnessed screens being a place of calm and peace and finding communities that get them and get their weird quirkiness.
And I just, I, I feel like adults are just, we are constantly demonizing screens. And when we do that, we are, we’re up against our, our kids because kids, a lot of kids are doing wonderful things. I mean, yes, a lot of kids are doing mindless things, um, on screens and, and it can really, you know, damage relationships, and it can damage health if kids aren’t taking care of themselves and getting enough exercise and eating the right foods. Of course, of course. But I also think that we need to pay attention to the nuances of this and that there are many, many benefits, uh, that screens provide kids and adults that we can’t ignore. We can’t, we can’t ignore them. We can’t ignore that. Many people have found their tribes, their quote-unquote tribes online, and especially divergent kids and adults have found each other and found a voice by coming together into communities all because of screens.
And so, I just wanna point this out, this, this out to teachers who may not realize that socializing was hard, you know, before screens kids with autism, it is, that is their number one challenge is understanding social cues and, you know, making eye contact. And, we have kids in our classes. Every single teacher has kids in their classes that are, have undiagnosed autism and, or, or maybe they’re diagnosed, but I think it’s pretty rare, honestly, as a teacher, I, I don’t really have kids who are actually diagnosed usually with ADHD or autism, but they’re there. They really are. If you look at statistics about the number of kids with autism and the number of kids with ADHD who are actually diagnosed, it’s a pretty big number. And there’s usually at least one in every class who has autism and probably three or four who have ADHD.
So for these kids, socializing can be really challenging. And there are skills that I wish schools would teach, uh, for communicating with each other. And we really need to kind of facilitate a safe environment for these kids to feel like they are able to talk to each other and to the teacher. And if we don’t, we don’t cultivate a safe environment where kids feel heard and seen by their peers and their teacher and, and feel safe, then, of course, they’re gonna have a hard time socializing and communicating with each other when you take their devices away. And like I said, I don’t think that we should be demonizing devices or our use of devices. We shouldn’t be shaming children or ourselves because it is harmful. It is causing stress. It, it is causing kids to feel like they’re bad, that there’s something wrong with them.
Why do I, all the adults in my life are telling me that this thing is so bad, but it makes me so happy. How confusing for a child to feel that way? So what do we do? Yes, excessive screen use is not healthy. It really isn’t. But excessive screen use, you know, it, it could be a symptom of a larger problem, a relationship problem, you know, with, with family, you know, it’s a way of escaping something. So having conversations with that child, being able to hear them out and hear like, you know, how they are, and like sitting side by side that child and asking them, showing interest and what they’re doing on the screen, maybe trying out whatever they’re doing. , I’ve definitely spent a lot of time playing Roblox with my daughter. And actually, I mean, there’s some things on there that are really creepy, um, that I’ve read in the news about Roblox and, and just like weird games that people can create, um, that, that really are not appropriate for children.
I know that because I’m staying informed about these things and then I’m talking to my daughter about them. I’m talking to her about internet safety and being careful and never sharing details about her online. Like so you know, never share your full name, your birth date, or where you live. These are really personal pieces of information you should not share online and, and sharing with her that, you know, the person behind that screen name might not be who you think they are. And so having these conversations with kids is so, so important. Rather than just saying, okay, you only have 30 minutes and starting a timer and getting into a fight about, about the screens. And I, I mean, I’m kind of getting into parenting here, uh, and I know there are many people that listen to this podcast that are parents.
And maybe this is helpful for you as a parent, as a parent, not just as a teacher, but I also think teachers need to kind of give their students time to just play on their devices. Why can’t we have some time like that in our classrooms? How awesome would it be if, you know, after students finished a piece of work, you know, or after they worked for 30 minutes straight, you gave them free time on their devices and you kind of walked around asking them questions about what they were doing or, and I’ve done this and it’s pretty cool, some of the things that kids do on their devices if you just take some time to find out, you’d be pretty amazed at, at what kids are able to do without any help from an adult. You know, they’ve learned these things intuitively. Um, and I think it’s pretty amazing.
But again, I’m not gonna say that a lot of it isn’t just mindless and some of it is very inappropriate. And, you know, kids are learning things earlier and earlier and earlier, and this is why parents need to have conversations with kids about topics that they might be seeing online because kids are seeing stuff that, you know, we didn’t see when Dial-Up was. I remember being 12, I was 12 when we had dial-up internet and there were chat rooms. And I remember asking my dad like, can I go on a chat room? , there was no Google or anything like that. There were just chat rooms. And I do remember as a young kid, uh, chatting with a friend, with someone online and they were saying some weird things and it was inappropriate. And I mean, that was, you know, in the nineties.
So, imagine what kind of inappropriate things that maybe over kids’ heads that they’re seeing, you know, online these days. And so that’s why we need to have these conversations with kids, elementary kids even, um, need, need to know about these things and be equipped with like, facts and information. And, because if we don’t talk to them about this stuff, then they’re gonna learn it on their own. And they’re probably gonna learn some things that aren’t necessarily the best. You know, misinformation is prevalent these days as well, and, you know, fake news and things like that. And, just being able to help kids identify, you know, when they’re being marketed to or when something is an opinion versus a fact. And these are just like basic skills that we really, as English teachers need to take, need to take the time to teach. So I hope that this episode has helped you think about the screen debate in a new way.
To wrap up, I just wanna reiterate that we really need to be careful about the way that we talk about our kids’ screen use because it could be damaging, it could help make them feel like there’s something wrong with them. And we don’t want kids to feel that way. We want them to be in touch with their beauty because they are beautiful…every child is, every human on planet Earth. And we need to sit side by side with them and find out what they’re doing, ask them questions, and show an interest in their screen use. And we also need to model, you know, relationship building and the importance of, you know, turning it off and, and spending time outside and getting exercise and, and feeding ourselves, um, healthy food. Because a, a lot of times kids will sit on screens and, you know, eat a bunch of junk food. I mean, I, I definitely have done that many times. Um, but just having these conversations is just so, so, so important. Thank you for listening, and if you found this episode helpful or valuable, I would love to hear from you. Go to amandawritenow.com, find this episode, and click podcast. You’ll find it by looking for the title and leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you. Thanks again for listening. Bye-bye.