Rethinking Screentime in Education

I can’t imagine the rest of my life without my screen babies: my computer, my tablet and my phone.

That being said, I am one of 71 million millennials that, fortunately, has had the unique experience of getting both tech and non-tech education. Currently, I tutor elementary school students in math. These students grew up with screens and I’ve noticed the different struggles these students face compared to when I was young: shortened attention span, the distraction of the screen, technical issues that disrupt learning, just to name a few. With a lens from best of both worlds, I sense that bombardment of tech at such a young age maybe have an effect on these children’s development. I had to dig deeper.

To put us in perspective, the younger you are today, the more exposure you have to screens in your life time. Long term exposure to blue light has evidence of causing chronic retina damage, already there is an obvious con to prolonged screen exposure (Vicente-Tejedor, et al., 2018). In addition to that, toddlers younger than 36 months who are exposed to more screens, have delayed cognitive, language and motor development. As the child gets older, there are studies showing benefits of tablets for learning (Lin, et al., 2015). However, it should be provided as supplement to their learning and it would further enhance the learning if there is a caregiver that shares that experience with that child (Reich, Yau, Warschauer, 2016). Basically, tablets are one of the tools in your toolbox of teaching and it is discouraged to use screens as a means to distract or ‘pacify’ the children.

As a society, we move forward with technology and gadgets in an effort to strive for improvements. I think we need to take more precaution and thoroughly assess how we are shaping our next generation from a foundational level. The next generation can be easily molded if we can understand better how early use of technology affects our young ones.

My intention isn’t to call for elimination screens and technology in schools, rather I want to prompt us educators, caregivers, and (future) parents to rethink how we want to use screens in conjunction with their learning. Many research studies collectively mentioned that there is not enough data and evi- dence to show how exactly are screens and non-traditional learning methods are affecting children from the inside out. There are so many areas we can look into and play our part in society to set our next generation for success.

Jasmine Cairns, SU College of Nursing, Class of 2019