Service of The Perfect Balance of Digital Technology for Kids in Schools & At Home

November 12th, 2018

Categories: Children, Distractions, School, Social Media, Technology

What amount of screen time is best for children in school and at home? Some feel that being comfortable using internet-connected devices is the best way to stay current and be job-ready when the time comes. Others fear that too much screen time is a damaging distraction.

As of this September, French children from three through 15 must turn off or leave at home their smartphones, tablets and other devices when in school. CNN’s Rory Smith reported that it’s up to each school whether older school children have the same restrictions. The French education minister said that the law, which passed by 62 votes to one, is to keep kids from the “phenomenon of screen addiction…. to protect children and adolescents.”

Lucille Grippo, who lives an hour and a half north of NYC, has three school aged children. She wrote me: “Our school district had a viewing of the movie ‘Screenagers.’ As a parent of teens it was eye-opening. I am one of the few that wish there was less tech in schools. It’s a double edged sword. It certainly makes life easier for teachers and students alike but I wonder about the affect on the brain of so much screen time.”

Lucille has learned how fragile brains can be from firsthand experience. If her name is familiar it’s because in January I re-posted a blog she’d written, “Why a Calendar is so Important to Me” in my post, “Service of Calendars and Miracles.” This young mother had suffered cardiac arrest out of the blue. At first, due to cortical blindness, she couldn’t see numbers and days on a calendar. Aphasia blocked connections that deciphered what appeared to be strange symbols. She also couldn’t read emails and posts on a computer screen..

After fierce physical, occupational and speech therapies and ferocious determination, her eyesight returned and today she even drives. When circumstances beyond her control forced her away from the “screen” and “offline” she realized how easy it was to step away. Reluctantly returning to her iPhone, tablet and laptop she recognized how the world around her operates on a paperless, electronic, and digital way. Sometimes her brain still has screen time overload.

Back to the documentary. Filmmaker Delaney Ruston, MD’s “Screenagers” synopsis begins: “Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span?” She wonders about the impact and friction at home and in school over the some 6.5 hours/day children spend looking at screens. The film explores “struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction.” It includes “insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists and reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how adults can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance.”

Dr. Ruston writes the blog Tech Talk Tuesday. In a recent issue she reported: “Fact: Schools experience pressure to have tech on their campuses from tech companies, administration, and others. Schools want to do well by their students and tech has been sold as a quick fix. For example, schools keep hearing from tech and curriculum companies that ways to ‘personalize and customize learning’ is right around the corner.

“Unfortunately, it has been a very long corner with no impressive results yet,” she added referring to a New York Times article, “The Digital Gap Between the Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected.” The Times reported that Utah, with no funding for a traditional program, has 10 thousand children enrolled in an online preschool. “…one can see how the screen has stepped in,” she wrote.

Her research showed that grades and emotional well being were improved when schools had stringent policies restricting cell phones. The devices were permitted by 66 percent of public middle schools vs. 34 percent of private schools in her study.

Do you think a child restricted from free access to online devices will fall behind his/her peers? Will eliminating the distraction help children focus on school? Might there be less online bullying? Are you distracted by your phone and the siren call of checking what’s up on social media and your email box?

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2 Responses to “Service of The Perfect Balance of Digital Technology for Kids in Schools & At Home”

  1. Protius Said:

    You really touch upon two issues here. The first is the computer/TV screen as entertainment and the second is the use of handheld computing devices to hone digital dexterity.

    My parents did not own a TV set. As a consequence, I had the good fortune to read books and avoid TV addiction when I was young, but in old age I do find it remarkably easy to slide into soporific numbness in front of the TV screen. I believe it was the US army a few years back which discovered that one’s brain is more dormant when one watches TV than when one sleeps. My guess is that hand-held device usage for entertainment would track similarly when measuring brain usage.

    On the other hand, when I was in army training and puzzled by it’s heavy use of film as training tools. I remember being told that the army had found using film, as opposed to just training personnel, such as regular army sergeants who inevitably droned on, to be a far more effective way to reach trainees.

    As someone with abysmal coordination and dexterity, I am keenly aware that, no matter how bright a computer user may be, to be competitively effective, he or she must possess a high degree of hand/eye manual dexterity. Intense use of hand held devices apparently does help improve this skill. However, on balance it is still probably better to be lame but alive, than to have a card shark’s finger dexterity but be brain dead.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve often written here that I’ve noticed umpteen clients who confuse skill at posting on social media with marketing smarts. They don’t necessarily go together. They think that by hiring a hip social media expert they can relax. WRONG. They need a marketing expert to direct the social media effort for best results.

    So what does this have to do with school? A child must still be taught how to think and to write and to calculate in order to best use social media or whatever will be the way people communicate when youngsters become adults.

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