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Is screen time a problem? Depends on your source

As an educator and/or parent, have you ever read something that makes you wonder if you have done more harm than good in your work with the children in your life?

A retired librarian sent me this video of an interview of Nicholas Kardaras, author of the book Glow Kids: how screen addiction is hijacking our kids - and how to break the trance. From Kardaras's website:

Current clinical research correlates screen tech with disorders like ADHD, addiction, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and even psychosis. Most shocking of all, recent brain imaging studies conclusively show that excessive screen exposure can neurologically damage a young person’s developing brain in the same way that drug addiction can.

Kardaras, of course, is not the first or only voice sound the alarm (and hope to sell books as a result) about the impact of technology on kids - or on civilization as we know it. An early influence on my thinking about technology was The Alliance for Childhood and its Fools Gold report, the writings of Jane Healy (Failure to Connect), and Larry Cuban's Oversold and Underused. Hey, don't forget Clifford Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil from 1995!

Of course, for every bit of research you encounter, you soon stumble over an equal and opposite set of stats. So a day or two after watching the Kardaras interview, I read "Debunking the 6 biggest myths about "technology" addiction" in which the author, a professor of psychology concludes:

To be sure, there are real problems related to technology, such as privacy issues. And people should balance technology use with other aspects of their lives. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for the very small percentage of individuals who do overuse. There’s a tiny kernel of truth to our concerns about technology addictions, but the available evidence suggests that claims of a crisis, or comparisons to substance abuse, are entirely unwarranted.

So unless you are really just looking for bias confirmation, its seems the verdict on technology use and kids is not final. Maybe we don't even have the right questions yet. As with so many controversial topics, the subject is right for extremism, swamp land sales pitches, and over-reliance on incomplete or hand-picked data.

What I do believe is incontrovertible is that technology and children's access to it is not going away. And that a thoughtful approach to working with technology and kids is absolutely critical. Educators and parents do need to think hard about how much time kids spend with devices and how exactly that time is being spent.

So take the warnings seriously, but don't let them stop the positive uses. Probably far too rational an approach to sell many books or garner many tweets.


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