Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

How to Decrease Screen Time for Students

By Angela Duckworth — April 24, 2020 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

We know we should limit kids’ screen time. But learning has moved online. What can educators, parents, and students do to make sure online learning doesn’t become unhealthy?

It’s mind-boggling to imagine how many hours our students are spending staring at screens.

Maybe they’re doing online classes with their teachers for the first time or upping their hours on Khan Academy and Zearn Math.

Add to this the fact that their social lives have moved entirely digital—now hanging out virtually with their friends in Netflix parties, Houseparty, and even Zoom, in addition to an already ample diet of Snapchat, Instagram, and texting.

How unhealthy is it to stare at our phones, tablets, and laptops all day and evening?

The scientific consensus is that more rigorous research is needed to pinpoint the effects of screen time on physical and emotional health. However, we know enough to say with certainty that staring at screens all day and night can strain the eyes and disrupt circadian rhythms, too. And, certainly, sitting constantly—as opposed to moving our bodies—is unhealthy for kids and adults alike.

Here are three recommendations for keeping our online lives as healthy as possible:


  1. Teachers who want their students to watch videos as part of their homework might consider which could be listened to instead—perhaps during a walk around the neighborhood (while practicing social distancing!).
  2. For taking notes, encourage students to go analog. Even before I converted my own course to a distance-learning format, I asked students to bring a notebook and pencil to class. Scientific research shows that taking notes by hand is more beneficial than typing away on a laptop.
  3. When delivering an online class, periodically cue students to look away from the screen (e.g., “Now, from memory, redraw the figure we discussed last week”).

Like everyone, I’m hoping that the resumption of in-person classes comes sooner rather than later. In the meantime, keep in mind that we may need to adjust expectations for screen-time limits, as we have for so many things during this pandemic.

Angela Duckworth, the founder and CEO of the education nonprofit Character Lab, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow Character Lab on Twitter @TheCharacterLab.


Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)