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Posts Tagged ‘screen time

What is the point of getting older without also getting a bit grumpier? That might be the leading question for this aging edtech consultant.

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Today I add to my lists [1] [2] [3] of popular but uncritical buzzwords or phrases.

Addiction: Specifically to any and all technology, e.g., games, social media, YouTube. The “addiction” used loosely by popular media and the layperson is different what a clinical psychologist might have in mind. 

An actual addiction needs to be medically diagnosed as chronic, compulsive, and harmful, and be treatable. This is in contrast to the flippant lay use, e.g., addicted to TikTok, followed by a laugh and/or a shrug of the shoulders. Casual and frequent use does not necessarily equate to addiction.

Addiction is sometimes followed by the next two phrases.

Digital detox: As if technology is inherently poisonous, some folks think that it is cool or fashionable to go retreats where they have no mobile or wifi signal and gadgets are banned.

Somehow the very same devices they rely on for work or to maintain quality of life need to be avoided. They shift the blame on the technology and conveniently ignore personal responsibility and self-management when using such tools.

Instead of a digital detox, what these folk might need is a mindset reset.

Screen time: Oh, this old egg. I do my best to crack it with every batch of teachers and educators I meet, but most seem brainwashed with this yolk of an issue.

There still is a focus among early childhood educators and parents about the quantity of screen time instead of the quality of the same. Why deny kids the responsible use of tools they will grow up with?

These adults have no shame in denying screens to their kids while not modelling responsible behaviours themselves. They also forget how modern and information-based workers need screen time to communicate, cooperate, and create. 

I do not mind being a buzzkill for buzzwords that mislead or obscure. It is a hobby of Curmudgeon Man!

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Both the individuals who tweeted that social media is not inherently harmful expressed their righteous indignation. 

But opinion is not fact. Facts are backed up with rigorous research and critical analysis of data on “screen time” and “addiction”. I curate a running list on those topics at Diigo.

For example, the latest two articles are summaries offered by The Conversation

If we want to create conditions for change, we need not just righteous indignation, we also need research-based indignation. Most people will shout down the former because there is no firm ground on any side. Some people are going to ignore the latter, but at least we have a firm foundation to stand tall on.

The thoughts and article in the tweet below are not mainstream fodder. However, they are important and nuanced examinations of current socio-technical issues.

This is just one of many issues that are central or adjacent to education. 

Parents and teachers need to know how representatives of popular media do not often read or represent research articles to inform accurately. They wish to sell their brands and to keep eyeballs on their pages.

They stoke fear and worry because they know that this works in the short term. Paying attention to possible dangers is a built-in survival strategy. But the long-term effect of using this strategy is that it is purely reactionary. 

We need to be better than this. We need to be nuanced, critical, and reflective.

When I read this tweet, I thought: Here we go again — fear mongering.

When I read the article (TODAY borrowed from the NYT again), it was more a more uncertain set of answers to the question. The answers were not new to anyone following the debate, and more importantly, following the research.

The link between insert-latest-condition-to-fear (e.g., cortical thinning) directly and insert-latest-evil-to-fear (e.g., screen time) was inconclusive.

If there is a tweet that sums up the nuance is a whisper, it might be this one:

This is a continuation of my rant against uncritical articles about limiting screen time. In the previous part, I suggested that adults not spare the ROD — reading, observing, demonstrating — or they will spoil the child.

Screen time is not singular phenomenon. Concerns about the possible effects of screens started in the television (TV) era and only recently included desktop computers, laptop computers, and mobile computing devices like slates, phones, and other handhelds. There has been decades of TV viewing to generate at least two generations of research. However, research on the smaller, mobile screen is more recent and not as comprehensive.

Most media and screen time reports refer to research and recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This year (2016) might have been the first time the AAP took back its limits on screen time. It recognised that its blanket rules did not consider ages, contents, and contexts. For a layperson’s read on the AAP’s recent turnaround, read this Gizmodo article.

The context of use is particularly important. Consider the different possibilities when the user’s screen changes from YouTube to FaceTime to Google Docs to WhatsApp to Pokémon Go. Adults need to take a step back, reserve judgement, and consider the breadth and depth of activity that can happen in different contexts.

I return to the TODAYonline article. There is one sentence that I troubles me the most: “There is so much more for children to see and do in the world than stare at a screen.” If we bother to read and observe, we will learn that kids do more than just “stare at a screen”; they are also watching, learning, laughing, creating, communicating, collaborating, and more.

Media effects are not binary, i.e., the impact of screen is not just bad and no-screen just good. Good or bad behaviours can happen in either context. Whether enabled face-to-face or via a screen proxy, a child can bully (or be bullied), or s/he can build community. Articles that describe the false dichotomy of if-screen-then-bad and if-no-screen-then-good tend to oversimplify and mislead.
 
Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.
 
Articles like No screens, please create unnecessary divides. There is the false division of the effects of screen and no-screen activities. It also adds to the generational divide by fuelling ignorance about screen-based activities.

Adults might try to straddle divides that are complex and possibly wider with technology. While adults have experience, this same experience is double-edged: It can hold back or it can push forward. We should seek first to understand, not judge.

The mobile technology experience of adults might actually be similar to that of their kids. If adults cannot model behaviours and outcomes, I say we learn from our kids how to first adopt a mindset of growth, modify our expectations, and change our actions.

Who else should be teaching our kids? Certainly not some newspaper writers.

Readings news articles like No screens, please make me uneasy. Why?

  • Newspapers like that one still have considerable reach.
  • Some people still consider what newspapers publish more valid than other sources (check Pew Research, comScore, or other data crunchers if you do not believe me).
  • The authors of such articles like to use “research says…” or “studies have shown…”, but not actually cite the sources.
  • Such newspapers pander to what is popular instead of what is progressive.
  • Some views, particularly this one about screen time, suffer from cherry picking.

Consider the opening salvo of unoriginal statements:

  • At the dining table “no one speaks to each other”
  • “21st century parenting dilemma”
  • Kids are “addicted to gadgets”

The piece seemed to be written from a template shaped by anti-TV and mobile screen articles before it.

It also tried to look balanced, but it is not. It cannot when its leading question was “How do we get children away from the various screens in our lives?”

The article avoided strike-a-balance from the template. It was clearly about rationales, rules, limits, varied activities with family and friends, and being a role model for kids.

Taken outside the context of an anti-screen time article, there is nothing wrong with those guidelines. These should be part of parenting tests if there are any. But the adults who wrote them conveniently forgot how they might have tried to read books or comics under the blanket with a torchlight.

The screen is not the issue. Choosing to do something more interesting, not knowing how to prioritise, or just plain bad manners is.
 

 
So let us not spoil the child by sparing this ROD:

  • Read widely and openly about the issue of “screen time” (I share my findings here).
  • Observe your kids with eyes, ears, and empathy. They are simply using the media and technology available to them just as you did with yours.
  • Demonstrate with care and by example. Model expected behaviour and timeless values. Offer wisdoms, not judgement.

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