Screen time = scream time?

Nan Bahr, April 6, 2020

Whatever has happened to the plaintiff cry of parents, teachers, and vigilantes calling out against the devil of screen time? Only weeks ago, a young person who spent hours online was described as bound for delinquency (Hawi & Rupert, 2015), a lifelong snoozer, typically unhealthy (Sigman, 2012), devoid of learning and social skills. Never mind that they might be creatively curating video art works, writing and researching for their first novel, or perhaps establishing a website to highlight an issue of social ill. The problem was that they were amassing screen time. As parents we forced them to close down their applications, and to go outside and find something to do, because being outdoors is its own education (Barker, Beresford, Bland, & Fraser, 2019). What a difference a viral pandemic makes.

For most primary children of the pandemic, their online schooling will drive them to their screens. For each of perhaps eight learning disciplines, it is quite typical for them to spend one hour a day in a zoom link with their teacher, and perhaps a further half hour each day working through interactive online materials followed by a small amount of homework. Then for their social interaction, more screen time. It is likely that a well performing student might be required, yes required, to spend upwards of 60 hours a week on line. The bells of doom are clanging loudly. But the silence is deafening from those who would normally be morally outraged.

I strongly suspect that this whole isolation and home schooling experience will bring a kind of balance to conceptions of the value and affordances of technologies in daily life. Perhaps, when students return to the classrooms after this virus has flattened itself out of existence, we can anticipate a more balanced view of the many values of screen time in our twenty first century knowledge society.

Barker, M. M., Beresford, B., Bland, M., & Fraser, L. K. (2019). Prevalence and incidence of anxiety and depression among children, adolescents, and young adults with life-limiting conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics, 173(9), 835-844.

Hawi, N. S., & Rupert, M. S. (2015). Impact of e-Discipline on children’s screen time. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(6), 337-342.

Sigman, A. (2012). Time for a view on screen time. Archives of disease in childhood, 97(11), 935-942.

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