Less screen time, more activities paving the way to success for young Saskatoon 'teacher'
SASKATOON -- There’s a good chance that screen time has increased for most families during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one 12-year-old in Saskatoon is using time that could be dedicated to television or a tablet to teach.
“We always sit down and watch TV, right? But we can also sit down and do this instead,” said Subah Muntashir, referring to communicating via Zoom. “I mean, it’s not that difficult.”
“I want her to enjoy childhood time, not to like just looking at the screen,” said her mother Shoshi Hossain.
So, through the SAGE program for gifted youngsters at Caswell Hill, Muntashir has begun to teach third grade students math online.
“They're actually learning how to add some big numbers,” she said. “So what I try to do is, I try to tell them some strategies so it's more helpful for them to know, because I remember when I was in Grade 3 and I had to learn that stuff too, so I use the way I learned it to help them.”
She also teaches origami over the internet, and will soon begin teaching English as a second language to people in Bangladesh, the country from which her family emigrated in 2010.
“To speak their language which is Bangla, so I'm going to communicate with them in Bangla and say, ‘Hello, how are you?’” she said. “And then I'll go into the basics, like greetings, and then what you usually use. I'll ask them what do you have to say most of the time, so that I can say, Okay, then I'll teach you how to say this, because it's commonly used.”
Her mother says on top of English, she can speak “Bengali, Arabic, now she's learning French, and she knows Hindi as well,” and in limiting the amount of time she dedicates to a screen, believes her daughter’s childhood is being enriched by a bevy of activities.
“She does swimming, she does Jiu Jitsu and martial arts, like karate,” she said. “She learned swimming through Red Cross, and she also does piano.”
Jay Wilson, Department Head of Curriculum Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, knows it can be increasingly difficult to limit screen time, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but says limits can be important.
“Younger children don't have a sense of the true reality of the world they're in,” he said. “And until they do, when you put them into many multiple realities that come through on a TV screen, it's hard for them to develop their own self identity or start to do that.”
Research shows that children two and under should have no screen time, he said.
“And then we move into two to five and they're saying about an hour a day, and I think that that surprises a lot of people. We see much more access to screens, and screens used to just be televisions, and now it's tablets and phones and all kinds of things like that, so there are some generally accepted researched limits that younger children should be following.”
Despite all of the teaching she’s doing, Muntashir says she’d like to go into medicine, like her parents. Her mother is a respiratory therapist, while her father, Arif, is a medical examiner for an insurance company.
“I’m really proud of my daughter, I am,” said Hossain, who added that fewer hours spent in front of a screen means more options for her daughter down the road.
“I think this is the time to learn. So that in future she can decide whatever she wants to do.”