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Too much screen time in schools?

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 02, 2014 10:32 AM

Education seems to be in a period of fluctuation as schools figure out the best way to align with the Common Core State Standards and how to implement new technology. As such, many are spending a decent chunk of their classroom time using tablets and computers to access educational content. While technology is increasingly sophisticated, and schools can offer computer programs that help students stay engaged with learning, too much screen time (even in the name of academics) can have negative effects. In fact, according to a study by the University of California, Los Angeles, students who spend lots of time using devices such as smartphones, TVs and computers are not as adept at reading others' emotions as students who don't engage with such technology as often.

Learning empathy
Researchers studied sixth-grade students who fell in one of two groups: One group attended a five-day-long summer camp where they were not allowed to use devices such as tablets, phones, etc. The second group spent their five days as they normally would, with complete technological access. At the end of the five days, researchers asked all the students to take a quiz. They presented the students with pictures of people and had them guess what emotions those photos expressed. 

The photo quiz revealed that students who were free of technology for five days more accurately determined the emotions represented in each photo than students who continuously used their devices. The researchers noted that this could be because the students had opportunities to engage socially with others at camp and were not distracted by their devices. According to NPR, Patricia Greenfield, a senior author of the study and a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA, would like to extend the study. She would like to see if using technology again after camp caused device-free students to lose their newfound social skills. 

Social interaction in the classroom
While school is meant to teach kids skills such as critical thinking, writing and reading, it also presents opportunities for students to become socially adept. By interacting with other students and their teachers, kids learn how to be part of a society and work with people. For that reason, technology may present a problem. If students spend their school hours looking at a screen (even if it's for educational purposes), they could be missing out on the chance to improve their social skills. 

"A lot of school systems are rushing to put iPads into the hands of students individually, and I don't think they've thought about the [social] cost," Greenfield told the source. "This study should be, and we want it to be, a wake-up call to schools. They have to make sure their students are getting enough face-to-face social interaction. That might mean reducing screen time."