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Managing Kids' Screen Time in the Digital Age

By: Tisha Rinker
Managing Screen Time for Kids

Is my child getting too much screen time? Are there good and bad kinds of screen time? What is considered screen time? If these are questions you've asked yourself, you're not alone—and in the digital age, these are questions that need to be asked in order to properly manage your child's time in front of a computer or television screen.

Screen time was defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics for measuring the amount of time a child spends in front of a computer or television screen. The initial intention was to provide recommendations that could offset the potentially harmful effects of passive computer or television use, especially for very young children.

However, the definition of screen time is changing. Studies have found that certain programs can improve social and language skills, as well as school readiness for children above two years old. Screen time can greatly differ in quality and effectiveness when it comes to educating your child.

Using Screen Time to Encourage your Child’s Growth

You can help support your child's learning with the correct use of education technology. To find out if your child's technology use is serving his or her growth, consider the factors below.

  • Is it built into a larger curriculum? Your chosen technology should not be a stand-alone curriculum; rather, it should be built into an educational structure. It should function as just one asset among many learning activities, resources, and educational models. Make sure there is a balance of technology and other ...

Kids and Smartphones: 5 Ways to Help Them Avoid Overuse and Stay Safe

By: Stephanie Osorno
Helping Kids Use Smartphones Wisely

These days, technology is available to us at our fingertips—literally—with the help of smartphones. And because families often have busy schedules, many kids are receiving smartphones of their own so they can stay in frequent contact.

While smartphones are a convenient and even entertaining tool, they give users more opportunities for cyberbullying through instant access to platforms such as social media sites and text messaging. If you are thinking about giving your child a smartphone, consider some of the following tips to help him or her have a positive and safe experience!

  1. Discuss your family's smartphone rules.
    Before you hand the smartphone over, sit down with your child and let him or her know the limitations and rules. Having phone rules will not only help you better control and monitor usage, but will also encourage your child to be a safe and productive smartphone owner. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you decide what rules work best for your child:
    • Do I want him or her to have access to social media sites on the phone? If so, which ones?
    • Should I take away the phone during specific times (e.g., homework time, dinner, family gatherings, etc.)?
    • Would it be a good idea to review any app before my child downloads it?
    • Should I limit the amount of text/picture messages he or she can send and receive so as to avoid distractions?
  2. Explain why being safe is important.
    It’s no surprise that kids are not ...

A Marathon Guide to Being a Virtual School Parent

By: Beth Werrell
Helping Your Student Cross the Finish Line

When you first considered becoming a virtual school parent, did you feel as though you were signing up for a marathon? Now that the school year is almost over, do you fear that you may be about to hit the infamous "runner's wall"?

Whether you're an experienced online Learning Coach or just starting out, take a few tips from long distance runners to help you and your student cross the finish line.

How to Win the Race

Refine and revisit your goals.
As all marathon runners know, you need to focus on the goals you're running toward, one mile at a time. For example, finding a bully-free environment may have sparked your interest in virtual schooling—but that one goal won't get you and your student through the long haul.

Instead, take incremental steps and periodically revisit your most important educational priorities for your student, such as:

When you're hitting the runner's wall at mile 23 or grade 11, it's the success of achieving smaller goals one at a time that will keep you and your student going.

Study the race course; know what to expect.
Experienced marathon runners know to study the course before the race—from hills to potholes to inspiring views. As a Learning Coach in virtual school, you should know how your role is going to change over time...

What You Should Know about Your Child’s Social Media Use

By: Meredith Yowell
How Students Use Social Media

Did you know that more than 90 percent of teens in the United States use some kind of social media today? In a technology-saturated world, children are growing up to be what’s often referred to as digital natives. While new technologies can offer many learning opportunities online, they can also bring about challenges for parents to manage their children’s digital screen time or protect them from being bullied online.

That’s why it’s important to discuss social media usage with your child. Talking about topics like kindness, reputation, and permanence related to your child’s social media accounts is one way to help him or her stay safe online. But first, let’s see how older children are using social media today.

What Social Media Platforms Are Teens Using?

Social media websites include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and YouTube, among others. These are the main sites for teens, according to a Piper Jaffray study, with Instagram topping the list at a 76 percent usage rate among teen social media users in the fall of 2014. Twitter usage follows Instagram at 59 percent.

What Are Teens Doing on Social Media?

Teens use social media as a means of communication between peers, which accounts for the shift from Facebook to other platforms. As parents and older generations create Facebook accounts, teens are looking for social media platforms that allow them to escape and openly communicate.

Apart from communication, teens also use these accounts to figure out what their peers like. By ...

Tips for Teaching Your Child Good Social Media Manners

By: Tisha Rinker
Social Media Manners for Kids - young girl sits with her smart phone and laptop

When today’s preteens were born, adults were just starting to figure out how social media worked. Now that kids of all ages are eager to join the world of social media, it’s only natural for parents to have doubts about letting their children dive in. Some common questions parents have include:

  • How do I tell if my child is ready to use social media?
  • When should I start teaching my child about it?
  • How do I keep my child safe on social networks?
  • Which social networks are safe for kids?
  • Will joining social networks just encourage my child to spend more time online?

When parents face these questions, the best approach is to treat social networks like any other new environment your child explores. You supervise your child when he or she plays outside, and you should also supervise him or her on social networks.

Supervision and guidance are crucial to the process of teaching young children how to use social media. Children are less likely to grasp the importance of social media etiquette and safety when they’re left to figure it out on their own. So, before you allow your child to explore social networks independently, review these four key concepts together.

Kindness. Promoting kindness on social media helps children build positive relationships, avoid cyberbullying, and become good digital citizens.

Caution. Teaching kids to protect their personal information and be cautious around strangers is essential for keeping them safe on social networks.

Permanence. ...

Spring Cleaning: Lessons Learned Celebrating Spring

By: Beth Werrell
Siblings with duster brushes learning life lessons about spring cleaning.

It may seem hard to believe, but …

One spring day, decades from now, your grown children will catch the first scent of clover and fresh-mowed grass. Suddenly, they will be struck with an irresistible urge to … wash windows, clean out the garage, or weed the garden. Reaching across time, they’ll connect with you and the lessons you taught them about spring cleaning and maybe even life.

With that day in mind, here are some thoughts about what and how parents are really teaching their kids during annual spring cleaning rituals.

Celebrating spring. Making transitions.

After a long, dark winter, aren’t we all ready to just go out and play? Like “decking the halls” in preparation for the winter holidays, you can model a celebratory attitude about spring cleaning by first focusing on the fun tasks ahead. You can let your children:

  • Set the mood by creating individual playlists of “music to clean by” and allowing them to “crank it up” during cleaning sessions.
  • Get in gear by focusing on the first tasks of organizing and maintaining seasonal toys and sports equipment—packing away the ice skates and sprucing up the bicycles.
  • Get outside, working with them in the yard or garden where they can enjoy the sun and see the immediate impact of their work. (First time gardening with your children? Check out this kid-friendly site from the University of Illinois.)
“Chunking” tasks.

As the old saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a ...

Books That Teach Kids about Kindness

By: Beth Werrell

books for kids that teach and inspire kindnessSelecting books that show positive character traits is a great way to teach your child about your family’s values. Reading a good story together will not only reinforce reading skills, but also open the door to talk about the characters and their actions. In recognition of National Bullying Awareness Month, we suggest that you begin by discussing bullying and the importance of being kind and compassionate toward others.

One easy way to start is by participating in Jumpstart and Pearson Foundation’s Read for the Record campaign on October 3 at 12:00 noon ET. This year’s featured book, Otis, by Loren Long, is a timeless story of friendship and kindness. The book and activity guides will be available to you online—for free!—when you complete the pledge to read.

Afterward, you can keep your kids reading and thinking about kindness by selecting age-appropriate books from the list we’ve compiled below.

Ages 4 to 6
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip Stead
Hey, Little Ant
by Philip and Hannah Hoose
How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen
How Kind by Mary Murphy
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie

Ages 7 to 8
All Families Are Special
by Norma Simon
The Ant Bully
by John Nickle
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
Horace and Morris But Mostly ...

Make Spring Cleaning a Learning Experience

By: Kim McConnell

online Learning Coach cleaning out wardrobeWhen you’re busy acting as both parent and online school Learning Coach, you may wonder if your house will ever be clean and tidy again. Something as ambitious as spring cleaning may seem like an impossible dream!

To accomplish your household goals, why not involve your family in projects like spring cleaning? Your children can learn from your example. By enlisting their help, you can teach valuable lessons about planning, setting goals and priorities, responsibility, and teamwork. Here are a few tips and ideas to get you started on the right foot:

  • Discuss the Plan – Before you begin, talk to your children about what you are doing, what it will accomplish, and how they can help. Using a whiteboard or large sheet of paper, make a big checklist of all the cleaning tasks so everyone can clearly see what needs to be done. Check off tasks as they are completed. If you plan to weed out old items, give children some autonomy by letting them choose a few things in their rooms that are “off-limits” and won’t be touched, like a favorite box of action figures or collected rocks.
  • Establish Rewards – Naturally, you’ll want to reward your child for hard work completed with your words of praise and gratitude. But you may also want to consider an appropriate incentive when a goal is achieved to keep motivation high, like a favorite meal, a trip to the zoo, or a new video game. The bigger the accomplishment, ...

Laying the Groundwork: Make Any Child a Lifelong Learner

By: Kim McConnell
children sitting on books tower

Kids may not listen to what you say, but they almost always notice what you do! If your family’s lifestyle shows a commitment to the importance of education, you can strongly influence how your child feels about school and learning. Here are a few suggestions for how you can lay a foundation for lifelong learning—online and offline:

  • Incorporate family values. Try to tie your educational values  to family ones, so your child will see the two as linked. For example, make sure your child has the opportunity to see parents and other adults conduct research and read to learn something new. If education is important not just for school but also for the everyday lives of people in your family, it strengthens the desire to learn.

  • Relate it to the real world. One of the best ways to get your child engaged in a lesson is to show him or her how to use the concepts/skills in real life. Having a context for what is being learned is the perfect way to show children why it’s important to advance their education.

  • Encourage questions. The more questions your child asks, the more invested he or she is in the material being learned. Don’t forget that you can use questions to generate conversation, drive home an important point, or elaborate on a critical concept. Questions lead to discussion, and discussion leads to a richer overall understanding.

  • Celebrate little victories. Your child’s earning a great score on a big exam isn’t the ...

The Role of Parent vs. That of Online Learning Coach

By: Kim McConnell
online learning coach kissed by son and daughter

How do you answer “Mom, please just solve this one math problem for me”? As a parent, you might really want to just relieve your child’s stress and anxiety by providing the answer, but as a Learning Coach, you know the math problem must be solved by the student. So, what are the keys to smoothly shifting from a parent-child relationship to a Learning Coach-student relationship? Throughout my years of homeschooling and virtual schooling, I have found that discipline and communication are critical. It’s so important to set clear rules and boundaries in order to establish a cooperative and joyful household.

Create and discuss your rules at the beginning of school and review them periodically throughout the year to keep students focused on completing schoolwork successfully at home.

Here are some rules that have worked for me and that might help you with establishing a winning school-at-home routine too:

  1. Consistently be the Learning Coach during the school day.
    Let your students know that besides being their mom or dad, you are also the Learning Coach and that you will answer any questions and help the best you can while they are working on their virtual school lessons. However, be careful to not give away answers or solve entire problems for them. Instead, help your child become an autonomous online learner.

  2. Be clear about rules and consequences.
    If your child previously attended a different school, ask him or her to tell you some of the rules, and ...

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