Every now and then you read a piece that makes the hang-on-a-minute klaxon go off loudly. This piece in The Conversation titled Devices in schools and at home means too much screen time for kids was one of those. Below is the comment I left on the original piece, as a few questions came to mind about the soundness and reasonableness of some of facts the piece states and the conclusions it reaches. Quotes from the original text are shown indented.
It is likely that school-provided or self-provided device programs greatly increase students’ screen time both at school and at home. This is problematic.
Why is this problematic? Is the concern that “screen time” encourages sedentary behaviour? If that is the case, our schools do a pretty good job of ensuring that children remain sedentary for hours at a time, whether they have a textbook or a tablet in front of them is neither here nor there, surely.
Or is it a concern about possible damage to the eyes? If so, research shows that reading off a bright screen before bedtime is to be avoided. The rest of the time whether we are “staring into” a screen or “staring into” a book or textbook appears to be pretty inconsequential.
In any case, I think a first step would be to define what “screen time” actually is. Is it watching tv? Playing a game? Reading a novel? Writing an essay? Revising for maths? All of the above? If it is all of the above, is it conceivable that some kinds of screen time may actually be beneficial to learning (e.g. supporting the delivery of timely feedback, independent study, meta-cognition, self-regulation…)
Heavy screen use has been associated with a range of health issues, such as obesity, spinal issues, ocular health problems and sleep disruption.
Is this correlation or causation?
Mental health may be affected, and increasing access to devices may also lead to increased opportunities for cyberbullying.
I think the link to mental health is alarmist. You appear to draw this conclusion from one Chinese study. Can this be backed up by other research? Other studies have shown social media can have positive effects on mental health, for example. My reading is that evidence for or against this remains pretty inconclusive and could be ameliorated simply by encouraging moderation.
Is the link to cyberbullying a correlation? Can we say for certain that providing children with mobile devices causes more cyberbullying?
Thus a child who spends five hours on their device at school, followed by three hours of homework on their device, would not be exceeding the guidelines unless he or she then spent more than two hours in front of the screen for recreational purposes.
Is this a fact? Have you observed children at school spending 5 hours in front of a screen? In my experience, children in 1:1 or BYOD environments simply do not spend 5 hours in front of the screen. The use of tablets in lessons is very task-specific – some tasks lend themselves to the tablets, others don’t. This means that the tablets come out when and if required. Assuming that children are/would be in front of their tablets continuously for 5 hours is an exaggeration and any conclusions drawn from this would be wide off the mark, in my view.
What do you think?