Online classes are the new normal but what about the increased screen time for children?

The Internet has been the savior for most fields of society during the pandemic. It has been a proving point of the wonders and crucial need in today’s time and age. 

Today the Internet is not only the place for entertainment but employment, education, and awareness. Every student in Nepal currently can resume their education only through the Internet, which is amazing. 

But are there any consequences we are missing?

The other side

The online class has come into being almost like a boon for all students. But is there a darker side we are missing? What is the quality of education online and what is the side effect on children?

An online class requires children to be on their monitor screens constantly. But what we miss over here is for how long? 

Online classes take a least 3 hours and go up to 6 hours, depending on the grade of the student. They substitute the hours of physical school with online classes completely. And not only classes, but students have to spend time on their screen for assignments and research. The only time a student gets a beak is during lunch breaks. This means that the students’ screen time is substantially increased.

The effects of a prolonged period of screen time, especially for children and young adults are different.

Young Students

The effect of increased screen time on children was highlighted by the study of the National Institutes of Health in 2018. They found out that children who spent more than 2 hours a day on screen time, scored lower on language and thinking tests. 

And children who had more than 7 hours of screen time experienced the thinning of the brain’s cortex which is the area of the brain that is related to critical thinking and reasoning. This does not give ironclad evidence for anything but it can be analyzed that screen times affect children’s brain by narrowing their focus and limiting their engaging creativity and explorations skills. This is to some extent expected as they have been born during the peak of technology where there is a gadget for almost everything. If an iPad takes the attention of the kid from fighting and crying to quietly eating, it is a hard thing to boycott for parents.

Older Students

Teens are one of the largest groups of people exposed to the maximum amounts of screen time. Not only for online school but social media, gaming and so much more. Yet, teens are especially vulnerable to the impacts of screen time on brain function as well as emotional wellbeing. 

As said by Victoria Dunckley, an adult psychiatrist, “Anything that affects attention affects learning” and screens most definitely have an impact on viewers’ attention. With pop-up ads, media pages right next to your educational tabs it is very distracting and the attention span can be easily affected for these teenagers. 

Social skills, self-confidence, and sleep are factors that are subject to risk directly or indirectly by screen time. It is very common for young adults to be awake all night studying, watching movies, or on social media. 

There is a growing number of children with glasses on and screen time has some little contribution to it. But, these groups of people especially have no choice but to be dependent on technology for almost everything and anything since they are the age groups who use it most extensively, especially after the pandemic. 

Adults

Adults are also equally under long screen times and can have many side effects than one may think. The first and most common is vision. Staring into a computer screen emitting blue light rays for hours at a time can lead to “computer vision syndrome”. You may have faced its symptoms too, strained, dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches.

Psychologist, Sara Thomee, from the University of Gothenburg explains that the blue light from the digital screens suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin which keeps us from having restful sleep, which is crucial as the age increases.

Posture is also something that is definitely under the effects. Hours spent crouching in front of a screen or head completely tilted down at our phones leads to back and neck problems.

Also Read: How effective is virtual learning?

Solutions

Well, we have seen that there some, if not major negative impacts of the long screen time on the current students and everyone in general. There must be something we can do about it? Well, some steps can help in recognizing and managing screen time.

Logging

Logging screen time helps in seeing how much time is productive. For genuinely important reasons like classes, homework, meetings, and work there is not much we can do to cut it without getting fired. Yet, we can at least learn how much of our screen time goes into watching youtube videos and stalking our friends on social media. Most mobile devices do offer screen time report which is in the mobile settings.

Break

Schools and companies should provide breaks in between long sessions of work. These breaks are not only important to reduce screen time and relax our eyes but will also help in making the brain sharp and prevent it from being dull. 

Since online classes do not have a physical environment like in school, they only have intensive studying. This can make students bored and distracted more often. Hence breaks also help in retention of attention and will to study in general.

Glasses

Protective eyewear can be extremely helpful for people exposed to screens for a long period. Blue light glasses are quite popular and should be used by anyone who needs to stay in front of a screen for a longer period. Although they have been suspected by some, they are widely adopted by people. These glasses filter out blue light emitted by digital screens and protect the eyes. 

Activities

Physical activities help in limiting the use of screens and gadgets constantly. Children should be encouraged to engage in more physically stimulating activities like puzzles, games, coloring, and just movement which helps them grow and develop. For teenagers, they should spend time off their desk and move around more. Family activities inside the home during this period can be of help.

Increased screen time as we can see, has many negative impacts on young, mid and elder adults. However, during this period, we should be thankful for the miracles offered by these technologies which have prevented our lives from coming to a complete halt. 

Since this is a type of side effect of this boon, we should implement the solutions and try not to waste too much unnecessary and unproductive time on these screens. 

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