Whether students’ screen time is built around mobile phone screens, TV screens, computer screens, video game consoles or a combination of all of them — sometimes simultaneously — screen time has taken up more and more students’ time and attention to the detriment of face-to-face interaction, being outdoors, physical activity and even reading and/or studying. This digital addiction, as reported in the Kansas City Star, is being researched as a possible mental health ailment as it relates to an Internet Gaming Disorder or even pathological digital media usage.
If 40 percent of people have trouble keeping their digital use and virtual life in balance with their real life and other demands, then back-to-school time could be one of the places it shows up. The addition of tablets in the classroom as part of a growing number of classes trading traditional textbooks for digital ones might make it more difficult for students to distinguish between good screen time and bad or excessive screen time.
Researchers in the report ask whether a “digital detox” program isn’t in order as a form of intervention to separate people — including students — from their digital devices. Those who truly are attached to their digital devices might find it difficult to not only get through an entire class period but an entire school day without their virtual digital “fix.” Students need to focus on their teachers and activities in the classroom rather than providing their “status” to others who undoubtedly don’t care about the student’s impression of a particular lesson.
At Ottawa High School, “cell phones are not to be used during class time or lunch. Students may use their cell phones during passing period, morning break time, and before and after school. Students caught violating this policy will surrender their phone to a teacher or administrator. The phone will be kept until the parent/guardian makes arrangements to pick up the phone. Electronic devices used during the day may be confiscated, also, if it disrupts the educational process. Students are encouraged to leave their electronic devices at home to prevent loss or theft,” according to the student handbook.
Other schools’ policies on digital devices in the classroom vary by teacher and that flexibility could prove harmful to students’ ability to go cold turkey and do without their mobile phone in the classroom. Students would benefit from learning to unplug from digital devices. Parents getting their kids ready to go back-to-school need to put reducing screen time ahead of other steps of preparation for school lest they find their students crippled by their inability to function and focus without the aid of their digital devices.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher