Screens, Screens Everywhere are Screens!

Posted by Amy Smythe on 3/25/2019 6:00:00 PM

Digitized screens are nothing new to our world. Screens are utilized by billions of people each day to work, play, and sometimes just pass the time. Screens in 2019 come in all sizes and shapes, literally from the size of buildings to as small as a coin. TV screens, hand-held screens, movie screens, watch screens, computer screens, the list is long for what screens look like and how they are used.  Screens have undoubtedly made our lives easier, more efficient, and more exciting, yet at the same time more difficult. Screens have made our lives simpler and more complex.

As an independent school administrator and in my opinion, the impact screens are having on our students is unparalleled in human history. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for the use of screens in the classroom, but screens can never replace face to face, real life, real-time human interaction. Many of the interpersonal skills necessary for people to survive and thrive in society are still the same skills that were important in the 1920’s. Schools face the unique challenge of being relevant to students and equipping them with the necessary skills to excel in school and life, which in this over-stimulated, digitized age can be difficult. Sometimes I do fear that students are becoming programmed in screen interaction and not equipped for human interaction.

A recent study from Twenge and Campbell out of The University of Georgia and San Diego State University discovered some screen time trends in teenagers that are worth noting for parents and educators alike:

“After one hour of screen time use, more hours of daily screen time were associated with lower psychological well-being, including less curiosity, lower self-control, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, less emotional stability, being more difficult to care for, and inability to finish tasks.”

“Among 14- to 17-year-olds, high users of screens (7+ h/day vs. low users of 1 h/day) were more than twice as likely to ever have been diagnosed with depression, ever diagnosed with anxiety, treated by a mental health professional, or have taken medication for a psychological or behavioral issue in the last 12 months.”

“Moderate use of screens (4 h/day) was also associated with lower psychological well-being. Non-users and low users of screens generally did not differ in well-being. Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being were larger among adolescents than younger children.”

Twenge and Campbell 2018, Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study

If those facts and figures don’t get the attention of adults, I am not sure what will. These statistics are lived out in the school setting every day. Students are coming to school with more social and emotional challenges and have a harder time connecting with peers, exhibiting self-control, and learning basic human interaction. Students need strong resiliency, socialization, self-control, attention skills to give themselves a healthy, happy, and productive life. One way we can all help our students develop these important skills is by turning the screens off and allowing our children to be children and to develop the human skills necessary to thrive.

Screens can never replace a friend, a teacher, a classroom, a playground, a lunch table, the gym, the art room, the playground, etc. A startling trend of students only learning through “screens” will not lead to well-rounded and well-equipped children who are ready for college and a career. My prayer is that educators and parents will work for the benefit of our children’s future and ensure bountiful opportunities for children to have real human, non-digitized interactions. 

A few resources that you may find beneficial:

12 Ways your Phone is Changing You by Reinke, forward by Piper (a Christian perspective on phones, it asks the basic question do you control your phone or does your phone control you?)

12 Tips for Parenting in the Digital-Age