Screen time in the age of online classes is an issue, but experts feel the hysteria is unnecessary

According to a leading expert in the field of cognitive neuroscience from Harvard, what matters in screen time is the content that is consumed and the context of it that affects one’s well-being. It is also imperative to make a distinction between productive and unproductive screen time. Screen time where an adult is on the other side engaging children in the process of learning cannot be viewed as harmful. Besides, teachers ought to be trained to ensure that these are not one sided lectures and there is a certain level of interactivity and also tasks integrated into the lesson that allow the child to work independently. “In effect, it is the quality of the interaction and content that matter and not so much the time,” told Vishnu Karthik, who is educated in mind, brain and education from Harvard University to a audience of mainly parents at a webinar organized by FICCI ARISE (Alliance for Re-imagining School Education) on Sunday (July 5).

Understanding the impact of excessive screen time on the eyes is perhaps the most important thing for everyone. According to Dr. Parul Sharma, Director and HOD, Ophthalmology, Max Healthcare eyes are sturdy to take all kinds of radiations, however what matters the most is when the blinking rate goes down or if the exposure to a screen is at a close distance. Size of the screen matters, a laptop and computer at an arm’s length distance is intermediate and are therefore more suitable as against a tablet, book or mobile phone held closely to the eye. “The best way to deal with the harmful effects is by taking enough breaks, for instance,  a 10/10 rule or the 20/20 rule, wherein after every 10 minutes one must practice shutting the eyes for 10 secs, similarly for the 20 min rule. One could also download applications to set reminders about these healthy practices. Screen time does not cause any long term damage to eyes.”

 Screens were there and screens will be there in the modern world. The idea is to learn how to make productive use of the technology at hand. It is not a good idea to expose children to screens, below the age of 2. However, for children above 3 years, 2-3 hours of time engaged in active learning is a suggested amount of screen time. “As long as there is a healthy diet, adequate sleep and play time and no extra-ordinary signs of distress, any anxiety over too much screen time is not necessary,’’ said Dr. Ravindran, education psychologist and trainer while emphasizing on the importance of online social interactions for children, the need for routines and structures and how it may have a positive impact on their socio-emotional health. Focus should be laid on training the teachers to make the experience more engaging and leave education to educators.

Role of parental guidance in digital learning is paramount. As parents cannot protect them from the screen but must protect them on the screen. On the issue of cyber security and need for digital citizenship, Rakshit Tandon, cyber security expert added, “What parents and children need to understand now is that we are all virtual or digital citizens. It is time to give children the values of digital citizenship- Responsibility, Respect, Compassion, Resilience, Integrity and creating positive digital footprints. Two words I believe should be added to the curriculum are netiquettes and digital wellness which I compliment with the word cyber hygiene. Get trained to navigate the internet highway.’’