FICCI ARISE Organizes webinar on “Good Screen Time v/s Bad Screen Time”

5th July 2020, New Delhi: The coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented measures taken worldwide to contain its spread are indeed disrupting nearly every aspect of children’s lives. Caregivers and educators have responded in stride, and are trying their best in finding new ways to keep children learning by developing online and offline learning materials. Although there are growing concerns that this in this format children may not be receiving in-depth education and are spending a little too long in front of the computer or mobile phone screen. In the given context, FICCI ARISE (Alliance for Re-imagining School Education) organized a webinar on ‘Good Screen Time vs Bad Screen Time’ which aimed to make a fair assessment of the nature and need of online learning.

The webinar consisted of a panel of eminent speakers that included experts in the field of neuroscience psychology, medicine and cybersecurity.

There were several questions raised on whether it is advisable to write off this academic year and catch up later to address the issues of fear of screen time and technology. An alumnus of Harvard University, educated in Mind, Brain, and Education, Vishnu Karthik who has worked in the field of cognitive neuroscience stressed on the importance of continuity of learning in managing learning loss, maintaining rituals, and routines and managing stress. He shared that it is not the screen time that matters but the content that is consumed and the context of it that affects one’s well-being. He added that it was imperative to make a distinction between productive and unproductive screen time. Screen time where an adult is on the other side engaging children in the process of learning can not be viewed as harmful. Besides, teachers ought to be trained to ensure that these are not one-sided lectures and there is a certain level of interactivity and also tasks integrated into the lesson that allows the child to work independently. In effect, it is the quality of the interaction and content that matters and not so much the time.

Dr. Ravindran a renowned educational psychologist and trainer, said, “I don’t know when people started having anti-screen hysteria. Screens were there and screens will be there in the modern world. The idea is to learn how to make productive use of the technology at hand. It is not a good idea to expose children to screens, below the age of 2. However, for children above 3 years, 2-3 hours of time engaged in active learning is a suggested amount of screen time.” He also emphasized on the importance of online social interactions for children, the need for routines and structures, and how it may have a positive impact on their socio-emotional health.

He also talked about the role of parental guidance in digital learning as parents cannot protect them from the screen but must protect them on the screen. He said, ‘’As long as there is a healthy diet, adequate sleep and playtime and no extra-ordinary signs of distress, any anxiety over too much screen time is not necessary’’. He further added that instead of stigmatizing and demonizing screen time, the focus should be laid on training the teachers to make the experience more engaging and leave education to educators.

Apart from screen time being an issue amongst parents and children, another issue that the webinar addressed was on cybersecurity which was taken up by Rakshit Tandon, Cyber Security Expert. He sensitized the viewers about the digital risks faced by the children during COVID-19 and the role of digital citizenship in mitigating the exposure to cyber risk. Speaking on the topic, he said “What parents and children need to understand now is that we are all virtual or digital citizens. It is time to give children the values of digital citizenship- Responsibility, Respect, Compassion, Resilience, Integrity, and creating positive digital footprints. Two words I believe should be added to the curriculum are netiquettes and digital wellness which I compliment with the word cyber hygiene. Get trained to navigate the internet highway.’’

And finally, to understand the impact of excessive screen time on the eyes, Dr. Parul Sharma, Director, and HOD, Ophthalmology, Max Healthcare highlighted that the eyes are sturdy to take all kinds of radiations, however, what matters the most is when the blinking rate goes down or if the exposure to a screen is at a close distance. She added that the size of the screen matters, a laptop, and computer at an arm’s length distance is intermediate and is, therefore, more suitable as against a tablet, book or mobile phone held close to the eye. The best way to deal with the harmful effects is by taking enough breaks, for instance, a 10 10 rule or the 20 20 rule, wherein after every 10 minutes one must practice shutting the eyes for 10 secs, similarly for the 20 min rule. One could also download applications to set reminders about these healthy practices. She also confirmed that screen time does not cause any long term damage to eyes.

Towards the end, the panel discussion was opened up to questions from the parents, students, and teachers. The webinar was viewed by over 30,000 parents, educators, and students across the country.