Mumbai-based The Acres Foundation, which runs The Green Acres Academy and The Seven Rivers International School, has recently completed and released an insightful study on the impact of screen-time on students.
The study titled 'A systematic review of screen-time literature to inform educational policy and practice during COVID-19' pertains to a review of existing screen-time literature to understand the implications of screen time (ST) on students in the context of pandemic-induced remote learning. The research was lauded by the international community and was published in the highly acclaimed peer-reviewed International Journal of Educational Research.
The study was conducted in the light of online learning being subjected to criticism due to its perceived adverse impact on students. The educators and research team at The Acres Foundation conducted an independent study on ST following a lack of consistency and deeper understanding of ST in previous studies.
Some of the key findings of the study based on a detailed assessment of 52 research reports are listed below:
- The popular perception that screen time is bad for children is a serious exaggeration of research findings.
- HOW screen time is used is far more important than HOW MUCH screen time is used.
- There are different types of screen time. Passive (e.g. TV), Recreational (e.g. browsing, social media), Gaming, and Educational.
- People are not properly differentiating between passive screen time (e.g. watching Gossip Girl or hanging out on Facebook or playing Grand Theft Auto), and more constructive types of ST (e.g. doing homework or playing a strategy game on the laptop). This is leading to all screen time being lumped into a single category and labeled as "bad" when they are in fact very different.
- Almost all negative effects of even the most obviously unconstructive screen time shown in research are extremely small, and there is no conclusive evidence at all to show that Educational screen time (like what we are experiencing during the pandemic) is harmful in any way.
- Screen time can be harmful if it is allowed to displace key activities like sleep, exercise, or socialising. Parents and educators can comfortably manage this risk by properly structuring screen time so as not to interfere with sleep, exercise, or socialising (e.g. by schedules and rules around usage).
- There are several resources available for the safe use of screen time (e.g. taking breaks, correct posture, limiting blue light at night, etc). We should empower our children to use screen time responsibly.
- Parents and educators need to move beyond these unfounded fears and take advantage of the huge opportunities and benefits of the right kinds of screen time especially in overcoming logistical, cost, and time constraints.
Speaking of the research and the international endorsement that it received from the reputed peer-reviewed journal, Siamack Zahedi, Co-CEO and Director - Education and Research at The Acres Foundation, said,
"The lack of clarity and consensus between researchers, policymakers, parents, and educators, over the rather contentious matter of screen-time and its perceived harms especially considering increased exposure through school at home during the pandemic, prompted us to do our own deep-dive and independent investigation of scholarly literature on the topic. And we hoped our findings would help us establish unity of thought and action among key stakeholders that work with our children."
The topic of screen time has spurred debates with people raising concerns over the supposed bad impacts. Further, policies based on incomplete studies that lack clarity on the types of screen time and their varying consequences can not only impact the learning capabilities of students but can also impair the educational quality for an entire generation! Now, even as online learning continues to be a consistent part of children’s lives, thanks to the pandemic, there is a rising need to approach the topic with research-based understanding that can go a long way in not only devising effective learning techniques for children but also help in creating well-informed policies and governance-related decision making.
With this study, The Acres Foundation hopes to fill the information gap and facilitate more informed decisions around screen use among students.
About The Acres Foundation
The Acres Foundation is an educational think tank that brings together exceptionally qualified, experienced, and passionate educators to chart out new pathways in education. Bringing together the best of Indian and International education, The Acres Foundation is the team behind the award-winning The Green Acres Academy schools in Chembur and Mulund and The Seven Rivers International School in Chembur.