There’s an argument that media should now include school time for kids, as this fall literally millions of kids will be learning from home, focused on a computer screen as their primary source of learning. School is, after all, a mass communication, but an unexpected one in 2020.
All the research suggests limiting screen time for toddlers and children. As a parent of two young boys, I can attest to the downside of too much screen time. We try to limit it, but in a COVID era that’s more difficult, since screen time becomes the primary means of communication and social interaction with their wider group of friends.
I can also attest to the change in behavior and general demeanor after they come off those screens. My usually happy, engaging, charming boys become moody, combative, borderline miserable kids for at least 30 minutes. When they are on screens, they block out the entire outside world and become entrenched in a world that is six square inches.
How is this going to work out when kids are being tasked to sit in front of that screen for three, four, or as many as six hours a day? Thankfully I don’t have to worry about that, since my kids are getting homeschooled this year and screens are not a part of the curriculum, but most families don’t have the opportunity to take that step.
Kids should not sit in front of a computer for four to six hours a day. I might even go a step further and say we (adults) shouldn’t either. Studies show that the required energy to maintain focus on a small screen coupled with the lighting of the screen itself are not good for our brains. Your eyesight will suffer, and you will be fatigued as a result.
Kids are at a crucial stage of development, and screens hinder the growth of kids’ brains because they essentially rewire your nervous system. That can have implications on many aspects of personality and automatic response to stimuli. Kids need to see the world in its full scope and color rather than from the lighted box sitting in front of them.
The proposed solutions for school in the fall, while completely understandable and entirely rational, are going to need to be carefully watched and managed.
Parents are going to need to keep a close on kids as they engage in distance learning this fall. They are going to take on the role of balancing screen time with real time and getting kids to engage with the real world. They will have to force breaks and tell their kids to get up and walk around.
On the flipside, kids are going to be tired and overwhelmed. They are going to have a hard time focusing and learning — and screens, while convenient, may have a negative impact in the long term on the status and value of education.
One interesting idea: Maybe this generation of kids will want to be online less in the future as a response to this forced online time. Maybe we are creating the first generation to be less interested in being online than the prior few. If that’s the case, that could be a positive. What do you think?