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Tablets and technology in the classroom: How much is too much screen time?

By Taryn Rittberg

These days, a classroom without some form a screen is basically unheard of. It is even becoming common to have some form of tablet to be listed on students’ necessary school supplies list, or have your school send a tablet home with students for educational purposes. Either way, the amount of time students are spending using screens, in one form or another, is drastically increasing. If this is the new normal, then we must consider how much screen time is too much? Does it affect students’ vision or their sleep patterns? Should we be considering the affect screen time has on the cognitive development of children and young adults?

A 2019 Canadian study, conducted in Alberta, which included 2,400 families compared the behaviour of children who were allowed two hours or more a day of screen time to those who were allowed 30 minutes or less of screen time. The study found that the children who were allowed two hours or more a day of screen time were five times more likely to exhibit problematic behaviours including hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and oppositional behaviours, and were seven times more likely to exhibit behaviours that met the current criteria of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).

Doctor Piush Mandhane, who is an associate professor of paediatrics for the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, lead this study, and commented that he “dound that screen time had a significant impact at five years of age.”

Continuing, he stated that “Current Canadian guidelines call for no more than two hours of screen time a day at that age. But our research suggests that less screen time is even better.”

First author Doctor Sukhpreet Tamana summed up the study saying “The two big takeaways from this study are that children exposed to more screen time, at either age three or five years, showed significantly greater behavioural and attention problems at five years, and that the association between screen time and behavioural problems was greater than any other risk factor we assessed, including sleep, parenting stress, and socioeconomic factors.”•

Work cited:

Tamana, S. K., Ezeugwu, V., Chikuma, Mandhane, P. J. et al (2019). Screen-time is associated with inattention problems in preschoolers: Results from the CHILD birth cohort study. Plos One, 14(4). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213995