Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Current Research and Recommendations on Screen Time

In my seventeen years in educational technology leadership, the issue of “screen time” has been ever-present and often controversial. As technology device access and use rises among all Americans, including school-age children, the news media and popular culture increase coverage on the topic. At the same time, more and more schools continue to implement 1:1 technology device programs as the cost of devices falls and access to high-quality digital learning material increases.

Schools often find themselves caught in the middle in the screen time debate. The news media has an affinity for demonizing the idea of screen time, but often fails to explain or define the details and issues behind the supposed ill effects. Further, many screen time web and newspaper articles are written from a non-education perspective, but fail to mention this—or any context—for the studies, findings, or recommendations.

Not all screen time is bad. Devices are not manufactured imbued with some unnamed “evil factor” that is gradually released into human eyes over time. A child (or adult) sitting in a near-catatonic state watching Adventure Time in rapid succession is having a very different screen time experience than a child (or adult) writing, recording, editing, and sharing an original movie using an iPad.

Further, the defintion of “screen time” is seldom discussed in doom-and-gloom media coverage. In nearly every medical context that provides a definition, lack of physical activity is the primary issue of screen time. For example, the National Institutes of Health ( state, “Screen time is sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time.” Using this logic, reading a book would present the same health risks as screen time.

If you find yourself in a screen time discussion, please consider reading a short article I researched and wrote on the topic of screen time. Please feel free to share the article with parents, teachers, and anyone else who may need more information about screen time.

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