October 19-23rd is Digital Citizenship Week. The ICATS are using this week to launch our Digital Citizenship Reboot for the EVSC by posting resources for raising awareness around 5 Core Values that we believe will help our students become better citizens of our increasingly digital world. The resources we feature this week will become part of a larger library of resources available to you throughout the year.
Today’s Core Value: Be E-healthy
There is no lack of opinion to be found on the Internet concerning children and screen time. Most recently the American Academy of Pediatrics has weighed in with a report called Beyond “Turn It Off”: How To Advise Families on Media Use. In it they suggest that the time might be right to revise its previous stance of strictly limiting screen time. The report’s authors write that “In a world where ‘screen time’ is becoming simply ‘time,’ our policies must evolve or become obsolete.” The report has created a strong response mostly concerning statements such as the one above. It seems there is a distrust of the fact that the research on this issue might have evolved to provide a clearer understanding, and a disbelief of the idea that without an evolution of thinking we risk obsolescence.
The fact is that both are true, and while the latter is outside the scope of this post, an understanding of the former will be beneficial. There are a number of published studies that show associations between television watching and development outcomes (for instance this one and this one). There is a fundamental flaw in these studies – the researchers did not randomly assign the amount of television watched. Looking at the general population, children who watch a great deal of television tend to be poorer, are more likely to both have parents with less education and be a member of a minority group. All three of these factors correlate independently with measures of development outcomes meaning that unless controlled in the study design (by randomly assigning view time) it becomes difficult to form strong conclusions about the television’s effects. After discounting these flawed studies the best causal evidence we have to date comes from a 2008 paper by two media economists which found no evidence that increased exposure to television at an early age impacted later test scores negatively.
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The aforementioned research appears to show that screen time may not be innately harmful to intelligence. Likewise, there is little evidence that the screen itself is dangerous to children’s health. Rather, a scan of the literature reveals that the primary impact of time with a device occurs as a result of being sedentary, and the secondary impact arises out of what is consumed through the screen. Knowing this, should we from here forward allow children unrestricted access to “screens?” As long as they exercise an equal number of minutes? Create a rule limiting screen time? Ultimately, the answer lies in the middle of two extremes. We must educate students about what they consume. We must educate them about the need for an active lifestyle and inspire them to become more active. We must help students develop their metacognition and self-awareness so they can take charge of their own decisions with regard to technology. Finally, we must educate the community we serve about a healthy balance of time, and close consideration and supervision of content consumed in any format, digital or analog.
The idea of avoiding digital distractions has much less debate surrounding it; however, two significant issues can be identified. First, there is a widely believed myth informing the thinking of many – the myth of multitasking. Recent research has demonstrated that our brains are not designed to efficiently multitask, they are designed to switch attention from task to task very quickly. As the brain switches resources from one area to another we lose a fraction of a second, but more importantly we narrow the pipe through which the brain handles data, the brain’s bandwidth. This means “multitasking” might effect performance and the quality of the work that is done. Looking at driving, the act of listening while driving decreases the brain’s bandwidth by about 37%. That’s significant. We must establish, teach and model good behaviors that limit the desire to “multitask,” and we must teach our community and the children we serve about the cost of digital distraction.
Resources for Learning About E-healthy Behaviors
Here are a few resources that teachers can use to develop their understanding of E-healthy Behaviors:
- Common Sense Media Screen Time
- ‘Screen Time’ For Kids Is Probably Fine
- Kids And Screen Time: What Does The Research Say?
- TED Radio Hour: Screen Time – Part I
- TED Radio Hour: Screen Time – Part II
- CNN: Your brain on multitasking
- Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again
Do you have a favorite resource for teaching or learning about E-healthy Behaviors? Share it with us!
Videos to Start the Conversation
A great way to start the conversation about technological understanding is to share a video and then invite your students to reflect about what they have seen. Here are some videos that you might use based on grade-level:
View this video and follow with a brief discussion about screen time and distractions.