Towards a more meaningful discussion of ‘screen time’

“Ten minutes of talking to a grandparent over Skype will not have the same effect as watching ten minutes of YouTube videos or spending 10 minutes catching up on celebrity gossip. This is further complicated by the fact that the effects of any one use of technology will depend on the user, their history, motivations, attitudes and much more. So we need to be wary of any question which frames screen time as a simple number – questions like ‘how much screen time we should be engaging in?’, or ‘should we impose limits or bans on screen use?’ oversimplify a very complex concept to the point of becoming meaningless.”

(Continue Reading Three Problems With The Debate Around Screen Time)

Can we have better conversations about ‘screen time’?

Whilst scaremongering headlines tend to churn in the clicks, we do need to step back and consider that “Indeed, some studies suggest that using social media can bring benefits, or have no effect on wellbeing at all,” (BBC, full article here). We know the research is limited, we know every child is different, and we recognize that not all ‘screen time’ is of the same value.  So what can we do if we have concerns around our relationships with technology?


If you are concerned, it is always a good idea to test behaviors and see what connections you may find.  If you would like to have a more meaningful conversation about ‘screen time,’ here are three ways to go about doing just that:

1. Check out Manoush Zomorodi’s Book Bored and Brilliant (or take a sneak peek of it through her TED Talk)

Seek out ‘moments of boredom’ over the break. At dinner be sure to share your ‘best moments of boredom’ together.

2. Take it a step further and try to make it through ALL five of the Bored and Brilliant Challenges (available here).

3. Slow down (and level up?) on the messages you share with friends and family

Trade text messages for audio messages.  Studies point to the ease of misreading an email.  But what else might you gain from hearing your loved one or friend a little more often? Is sending an audio message slightly more complicated–maybe.  But will that extra step allow you to think a bit more carefully about what you are sending? Maybe. Try it out for a week and see.


One Comment Add yours

  1. says:

    I completely agree Tricia – we see sensationalist headlines like this all the time. The effects of digital technology on cognitive processes is a new part of the IB Psychology curriculum, so your post is really useful critical analysis for us to consider when exploring both positive and negative effects. It helps us to ask the question – How can we use this research to discuss effective use of digital technology?

    In Global perspectives there is also a new unit called ‘Digital World’ which we’re planning at the moment. This is an extremely helpful set of resources that our students can explore to consider a more meaningful debate beyond positive vs. negative effects.

    Thanks for sharing!

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