In 2021, Class, a virtual classroom app that combines with Zoom, neared unicorn status after receiving funding from SoftBank Vision Fund II. But, with just 10 months and a string of top edtech U.S. investors to back it up, the app’s spectacular rise only speaks to the boom in online education in the past two years.
Online learning has changed. It went from centering around accessibility to becoming the primary delivery method almost overnight. So when it comes to screen time, this newest addition to our already screen-filled lives is uninvited. Especially for children, it only meant that screen time was highly monitored during lockdown. And that change came with struggles. Between configuring the technicalities of accessing online classrooms and figuring out how to engage students, teachers have faced an uphill battle all along.
There is plenty of research to suggest that too much screen time has negative health implications, but education has to continue at all costs. 2021 was full of stories of students finding creative ways of avoiding classes or not attending them. One 8-year-old found a loophole in Zoom’s app
last year that locked her out of her Zoom class. Even Zoom’s technical team failed to find the issue. It led to a goose chase into discovering that the child was locking herself out by inputting the wrong password over 20 times.
Screen Time Vs Screen-Tied
Screen time has five types: television, video games, social media, music, and reading. The key is not just to regulate screen time but also the content that is being consumed. Technology may have evolved, but our ability to use it for long durations and to conduct sensory tasks like learning over the internet hasn’t. Between education, video-games, social media and TV, distribution meant calibrating what type of content should be consumed in order to reduce the negative impact.
Approximately 75% of all teenagers own a smartphone today. In addition, a majority of young adults report video games as their go-to activity in their free time. While research on the use of video games may be inconclusive, prolonged exposure
is nevertheless known to rewire developing brains. There’s also a high risk to susceptible minds with regards to unfiltered and harmful messages from social media, which is a massive source of increased screen time for children and teenagers.
All these issues call for a meaningful control of screen time. But in a sea of endless information and uninterrupted content, how do you identify the right balance?
Culling Unnecessary Content
For educators, the aim is clear: to balance screen time so precariously that children do not lose their will to learn or play. Parents and educational institutions must identify the following objectives through the content they are letting their families consume:
Developing digital skills to prepare children for higher education and digital careers
Raising digital citizens that use online mediums to contribute to their communities
Exposing learners to new ideas and concepts in a safe context
Acquiring creative skills, interpersonal expression, and etiquette for engagement online
There is no dearth of educational content online, but it is important to achieve a balance between the educational and the entertainment consumption of learners. On occasion, both can be combined through interactive shows and programs that do not expose learners to addictive behaviors.
Designating screen-free times, activities, and even locations like meals, traveling, or bedrooms can help learners build a habit of controlling their screen time.
To Wrap It Up
There is no doubt that the pandemic provided online learning with a much-needed shot in the arm. This also means that screen time has exponentially increased. Thanks to both virtual schools
and a complete lockdown on going outside, young learners were left with no option but to turn to their screens. Whether to connect to their peers, attend classes, or spend their free time, learners are faced with a barrage of screen time that can affect their ability to navigate a post-pandemic world. Parents and educators must take it upon themselves to lay down the guidelines that drive the harmonious use of electronics without encouraging total dependence on them.