The world has become increasingly dependent on technology. It’s hard to imagine life without computers, cell phones, tablets, and other devices that allow us to communicate, access information, and connect with others.
Since returning to school last year, more and more students have come to his classes exhausted and angry after working through drama on Snapchat until 3 a,m, John Arthur, a sixth-grade school teacher, has seen. Despite Arthur's concerns about the increase in time students spend in the digital world since the start of the epidemic, he recognizes that screen time is here to stay.
Arthur says the situation is unprecedented because we can't remove technology from them anymore. "We must accept that the world has changed. They must utilize technology.” Even though youth screen time has escalated as a result of the pandemic, researchers, parents, and teachers are all in agreement that we should reconsider how we approach this problem.
Teachers like Arthur are finding ways to seamlessly integrate technology into their lessons, as they realize that students will be more engaged if they do so. According to Arthur, a popular video game, like Minecraft, can be used as a simulation to teach students about ancient civilizations. However, he also stresses the importance of balance and ensures that all math instruction is provided on paper so that children can have a tactile learning experience as well as a break from screens.
Dr. Dave Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, advises that screen time should be limited if it is displacing other activities like exercising, spending time with friends, or sleeping. He says we should stop viewing technology as some kind of monster. Rather, we should focus on helping young people interact with technology in a healthy manner.
“It is true for the entire human population that it is difficult to get off screens,” he said. “We try to put the same behavioral safeguards in place for children as we do for adults.”
Dr. Anderson proposes rewarding children for getting off screens and putting time limits on technology along with warning signals when time is almost up.
Children's frequent use of digital platforms has caused experts to worry about the consequences for child development, particularly in relation to in-person socialization skills such as facial expression control, polite conversation, and active listening. But there is another aspect to the story, Anderson says.
“It is a mistake to believe that children are not gaining social skills online,” Anderson says. “E-mail, text messaging, and the ability to communicate effectively using Zoom or chat are all critical in the modern workplace. You need both.”
The screen itself has not inherently decreased attention spans, according to Anderson. Behavioral issues like shorter attention spans are not side effects of too much screen time. Children who spend a lot of time on screens may have trouble paying attention in the real world because stimuli are less fast-paced.
Arthur knows the problem of demonizing screens, instead of working with them, all too well. For example, during the pandemic, a student failed to log on for two days when classes were online and when Arthur phoned the student's parents to inquire about him, Arthur found out that the student's laptop had been confiscated as a disciplinary measure. Although taking the laptop away solved one problem, it created another, forcing the student to miss out on vital learning.
"We have to learn how to use technology wisely enough to keep out the bad while letting in the good", Arthur emphasizes.
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