My original question and value of interest centered on the idea of having a healthy balance of online or screen time activity. When I began exploring this question, I wanted to understand how can we find balance in a world that is growing more and more digital in nature; and specifically – how do we determine an appropriate amount of time socializing online, compared to socializing through in-person interactions?
I reflected on the readings of Apurvakumar Pandya and Pragya Lodha in their online article titled, Social Connectedness, Excessive Screen Time During COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Review of Current Evidence. As we come through the back end of a global pandemic, their article brought to life the idea that “in times of social distancing there is a possibility that screen time may not negatively interfere with well-being as it is the only way to remain socially connected. However, mindful use of the digital screen time needs to be under check. The unprecedented digital life during the pandemic gave rise to increased levels of anxiety, sad mood, uncertainty and negative emotions like irritability and aggression”. Exploring the idea of balance needs to have perspective on healthy versus unhealthy extents of connection online and through screen time. Pre-pandemic, I believe that the argument for less screen time and social connectedness online – in favor of greater interpersonal, face-to-face, connections – was louder and more visible than how it currently is, post-pandemic. The reasoning for this is that the pandemic illustrated for many the educational and vocational advantages that come with fully adapting technology into our workflow. We learned that we can be productive, and at times, possibly more cost efficient, if we maximize social connectivity online and reduce the level of investment in personal connections.
However, what effects does this all have on our overall health, and well-being? There is no denying that too much time online and in front of screens has negative effects. We need to establish balance for our own personal health, and that balance may not always look the same for every person. In her article, The Negative Effects of Screen Time for Adults and Children, Dr. Aris Mosley notes that, as a result of too much screen time, our personal health and well-being is often compromised through higher rates of obesity, sleep deprivation, chronic neck and back pain, and increased levels of depression and anxiety. Dr. Mosley also supported a National Institutes of Health Study that found that “children who spent more than two hours a day on electronic devices scored lower on thinking and language tests. Those with more than seven hours of screen time experienced thinning of the brain’s cortex, which is related to critical thinking and reasoning”.
To find balance means we need to limit our screen time. It means that parents and educators need to practice and model healthy use of technology. Individuals need to budget time to “unplug” just as much as they budget time to “plug-in”. Employers, teachers, parents – all should be encouraging other activities to help combat the negative effects of too much time online and in front of screens. Some believe there is a balance to be found, especially for youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends “avoiding screens for children younger than 18 to 24 months. Children over age 2 should be limited to 1 to 2 hours of screen time per day. Adults should also try to limit their screen time outside of work hours”.
When reviewing the student perspective shared around developing a healthy balance of time online and screen time, I can understand the need to focus on multiple perspectives as we aim to align with the ISTE Standard 7b. ISTE Standard 7b reads, to “partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology”. I believe the important thing is to find what balance means for you; what balance means for those you love; and overall, what quality of life you want to have.
Lodha, Pragya and Pandya, Apurvakumar (2021). Social Connectedness, Excessive Screen Time During COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Review of Current Evidence. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fhumd.2021.684137/full
Mosley, Aris (2020). The Negative Effects of Screen Time for Adults and Children. Valleywise Health. https://blog.valleywisehealth.org/negative-effect-of-screen-time-adults-children/