Healthy Screen Time is One Challenge of Distance Learning

Healthy Screen Time is One Challenge of Distance Learning

But it’s not the only one experts wrestle with as more students are asked to learn online.

By: Kathryn Hulick

For many students today, distance learning has become the new normal. Their classes happen on virtual-meeting platforms, such as Zoom or Google Classroom. “All you have to do is get in Zoom, and when that Zoom’s over, get into the next Zoom,” says [seventh grader] Tyson Terry. Distance learning means lots of screen time. 

Kids are also stuck at home during their free time. YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Netflix, TV and video games offer easy ways to pass time. Tyson’s sister Nia is in high school. She’s been spending a lot more time on her phone since the pandemic started. “It’s hard to do anything without it,” she says. [...]

In one 2019 study, Taren Sanders, health scientist at Australian Catholic University in North Sydney, looked at how kids spent their screen time. His group then investigated whether the type of screen time made a difference in mental or physical health or in school achievements. The researchers sorted screen time into five types: passive (such as watching a movie), interactive (such as playing a video game), social (such as texting or FaceTiming), educational (such as a virtual class) or something else.

Educational screen time was linked to doing better in school and had no bad health effects. More passive screen time was linked to worse outcomes in health and school achievement, the researchers found, compared with the other categories. But the impact was “quite small,” Sanders adds. Problems showed up mainly in kids spending more than eight hours a day on screens. [...]

Looking on the Bright Side

Sanders has done research that shows that college students tend to learn better when they have access to videos of lectures. This may be because they can pause or go back and listen to the hard parts over and over. Now that many classes are being recorded, students of all ages may have this advantage.

Aisha Bonner is a School Leader at KIPP Vida Preparatory Academy in Southern California. In classrooms, Bonner says, teachers and students sometimes feel pressured to be working all the time. Students may not always be able to experiment with different ways of learning. At home, many kids have more freedom to lie on the floor, pace around, move to another room or take breaks as needed. Also, she notes, teachers and students and families have had more one-on-one conversations as they struggle to figure out the new normal.

“We’re closer” as a community, Bonner says. She hopes everyone will take the positives from distance learning with them when they go back to in-person classes.

Read the full story, here

About the Author:  Hulick is a freelance science writer and the author of Strange But True: 10 of the World's Greatest Mysteries Explained, a book about the science of ghosts, aliens and more. She loves hiking, gardening and robots.