4 September 2015

When you have family time, how many screens are in the room? It is something we are all guilty of in the modern age; iPads, smartphones, laptops and the TV. That’s not to mention the growing trend for wearable tech and the so-called Internet of Things.

Screen time can be productive, but where do you draw the line?

Screen time can be productive, but where do you draw the line?

The adult reliance on technology is much criticised in the media with the trend for tongue-in-cheek games sprouting up where the first person at dinner to look at their phone has to pay the bill. However, where do we draw the line when it comes to children?

Whilst technology has helped children’s education evolve in leaps and bounds, a report published today has revealed that screen-time has had a negative effect on GCSE results.

The study by Cambridge University found that an additional hour of screen-time each day was associated with the equivalent of dropping a grade in two subjects, whilst two extra hours equated to a drop in grade in four subjects.

I have spoken several times about education and – although I don’t agree that current examinations are necessarily the best route to equip our young people with the skills they need going forward – we should still be doing all we can as adults to help children learn and develop.

That being said, I wonder if in some cases children who are spending less time on the curriculum and more time online could actually be spending their screen time learning skills that equip them better for life. Screen-time is a very broad term when you consider the huge range of activities that can now be completed via a screen.

As with any technology, the importance is in how you use it – whether you use it for good or otherwise. When it comes to children and technology, the onus is on parents and family members to ensure that screen-time for young people is contributing to their learning. The internet is an amazing knowledge resource when used appropriately.

I found it encouraging reading that the research confirmed something that I have long believed in: increased physical activity doesn’t negatively affect exam results.

I would be interested to discover how sport played a part in the results of the study. Does it mean that those who were spending more time online or watching TV were doing less sport and were less active? I think this is possibly the biggest driver here. I believe that exercise is one of the most important parts of learning. Sport equips you with skills that you can’t learn by reading a book: resilience, team work, tenacity, competition, goal setting.

As more and more screens take over our everyday lives, it is increasingly important to be mindful of the amount of time we spend staring at them. Are you doing something productive on your smartphone or are you wasting time? If the answer is the latter, why not go for a run instead? Or go and spend time with your family?

My wife and I are often guilty of this ourselves, but this report comes as another reminder to put down the screen and get a better view!

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