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As screen time increases, new warnings about child technology use emerge

screen time tech addiction

The time  of ”no phones in class” may be coming to an end.

Despite lingering concerns among some educators that smartphones and other portable communications devices represent an unwanted distraction in the classroom, an increasing number of districts are exploring the advantages of integrating such tools in their curriculum.

A 2015 survey conducted by Pearson found that 41 percent of students reported using their mobile devices to complete school work.

Three years later, those numbers are on the rise.

But a new warning suggests increased technology use among students could lead to a potentially harmful addiction.

Addiction or habit?

The next edition of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of diseases, includes a condition known as “gaming disorder.”

The designation comes as new brain research and other studies reveal serious addictions among some children to online activities, such as social media, the internet, and video games, Anya Kamenetz reports in Mind/Shift.

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A clear definition

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a childhood researcher, warns that society has historically turned a blind eye to the potential negative effects of technology on child health. As he tells Mind/Shift:

“We have, as a society, gone all-in on tech. So we don’t want some buzz-killing truth-sayers telling us that the emperor has no clothes and that the devices that we’ve all so fallen in love with can be a problem.”

So where does technology as a habit end and technology as an addiction begin?

As yet, researchers have not identified a baseline amount of screen time that makes a child more susceptible to technology addiction. But there are potential warning signs.  

Is technology use the only thing that makes a child happy? Are children moody when they don’t have access to their phones? These are important questions for parents, doctors, and teachers to ask, reports Kamenetz.

As emerging research gives us a better understanding of what constitutes healthy and unhealthy uses of technology among school-age children, school leaders and educators should consider both the good and the bad.

As Jeffrey Knutson, who leads Common Sense Education’s teaching strategies project, tells Education Week:

“When it comes to kids’ screen time, it is an issue of not only moderation and media balance, but also the context in which it is happening. There’s a significant difference between parking your child or all of your students in front of a screen to sit and absorb, and engaging with a screen or using a screen to engage with others.”

Do your students use devices or smartphones in class? How do you strike a balance between keeping students interested and promoting healthy technology use? Tell us in the comments.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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