Decoding 4 myths about screen time that are impacting online education

Jul 13, 2022 | Blog

These are the 4 Myths about screen time, through research on the effects of screen time based on the content and context of screen use, that can help us understand the real impact of screen time among children.

Technology in education is evolving, and it is going to have a significant impact in the near future. The pandemic led schools and parents to leverage online education, which in return increased the screen time. And now, even with the return to the traditional classrooms, technology remains an integral part of the learning process, including longer hours in front of a screen!

However, this has been a point of anxiety for a lot of parents, as kids are now exposed to longer hours of screen time, both at home and at school. These concerns are understandable, but they are not entirely true.

Decoding 4 myths about screen time that are impacting online education

These are the 4 Myths about screen time, through research on the effects of screen time based on the content and context of screen use, that can help us understand the real impact of screen time among children.

MYTH 1: ALL SCREEN TIME IS THE SAME

There are many types of screen time – passive screen time (like just watching Netflix), games, social media, educational screen time that are all put into one giant bucket of ‘screen time’.

Why does this matter? These differ dramatically from each other in their quality and the way they engage students, yet very few articles, social media posts or whatsapp forward treat them separately.

MYTH 2: ALL TYPES OF SCREEN TIME (EDUCATIONAL VS PASSIVE VS GAMING VS SOCIAL MEDIA) HAVE AN EQUALLY BAD EFFECT AND MUST BE DRAMATICALLY REDUCED

The one type of screen time that has the least research available in regard to negative effectives of screen time is Educational Screen time. This is screen time for the purpose of learning including algorithm-based, individualized learning programs, educational games, instructor-led online courses like MOOCs.

So while the prior body of ‘screen time’ studies seem to suggest that there might many negative effects associated with screen time – including adverse physiological, psychological, and educational wellbeing outcomes (academic performance, weight gain, sleep, mental health) it is very important to note that almost all of these are conducted around screen time categories like gaming, passive viewing and social media. There is very little evidence available in regard to educational screen-time.

Why does this matter? It matters because when you say ALL screen time is bad, and you completely disregard all the massive positive gains from educational technology it promotes popular misconceptions that often lead parents and policymakers to put extreme limits on screen usage in schools.

Decoding 4 myths about screen time that are impacting online education

MYTH 3: SCREEN TIME IS THE CAUSE OF HARMFUL PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS

Even for passive, gaming and social screen time, it is important to remember that ‘association’ is not the same as being responsible for causing it. One major reason for this association is also because screen time can displace important activities like physical movement, social play and sleep – which in turn may have negative effects.

Why does this matter? Because it means that negative effects can be reduced by ensuring that healthy activities persist even when screens are used.

MYTH 4: THE EVIDENCE FROM SCREEN TIME RESEARCH LEAVES NO ROOM FOR DOUBT

There are many limitations to the research on screen time – many types being clubbed into one category, small effect sizes in the research, small number of studies on educational screen time. Further a lot of the screen-time effects are measured using self-reported surveys. These are important limitations that we need to remember.

Why does this matter? Because popular and social media packages them into sensational headlines or bite-size pieces of information that lose all this important information about the limitations. This often promotes misconceptions and sometimes widespread misinformation.

This blog appeared as an article in IndiaToday dated 19th April, 2022

IndiaToday – https://www.k12digest.com/back-to-school-dos-and-donts-for-parents/

(This article is written by – Radhika Zahedi, School Director, The Green Acres Academy on IndiaToday.)

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