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This Toronto school is helping families adopt “screen-light” living.

We can’t ignore the immense benefits technology has had on society. For families, technology offers increased opportunities to connect, whilst at the same time dominating time previously reserved for fostering tangible relationships. It’s essential to recognize the influence screens can have on a family by monopolizing a caregiver’s time and therefore affecting their ability to nurture familial connections. 

“It’s through relationships that we learn to form social bonds and healthy relationships,” says Joanna Anderson, MSW. As adults, we face an ongoing demand to be plugged in — our lives are tethered to a screen. It can be tempting to lean on technology as a tool when raising children. “Screens aren’t inherently bad. It’s about how we use them,” says Anderson. “We’re seeing kids exposed to topics they aren’t equipped to understand. As a result, attention spans are diminishing and generalized and social anxiety is on the rise.” 

Connection is key 

For 25 years, The Clover School has worked to bring Montessori education to families across Toronto. The school is committed to providing programs fundamental to a child’s overall well-being and highlights the importance of the connection between caregiver and child. “All humans need connection to thrive. Genuine, loving connection with someone they trust can be the antidote to many behavioural issues in children,” says Isabelle Kunicki, Co-Founder and Director at The Clover School. 

The Clover School’s Disconnect to Reconnect: Screen Time Pledge encourages families to be intentional about how their time is spent, instead focusing on building connections off-screen and using screens in a purpose-driven way. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and the pledge doesn’t mandate a complete detox. Instead, it encourages families to take small steps to lighten screen time, committing to a family “unplug hour” or leveraging screens for educational, connection-building purposes, like watching a movie together.

Fostering education off-screen 

We can’t tell parents to have fewer demands placed on them, but we can give ideas parents can use with their children to ensure they’re meaningfully connecting.

This is easier said than done. To help caregivers navigate going screen-light, The Clover School has created a curriculum that supports building stronger connections during school and at home, focused on the experiential learning that has proven critical for development. At school, children are offered opportunities rooted in experiences like gardening, creating a connection to food and where it comes from. The school also offers an outdoor education program, allowing children to experience the natural world through physical exploration with the hope of fostering a caring, responsible generation.  Outside of school, HomeGrown is a home-based program that provides simple activities that can be adapted to any household, helping families learn together outside school. “We can’t tell parents to have fewer demands placed on them, but we can give ideas that parents can use with their children to ensure they’re meaningfully connecting,” says Kunicki.   

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