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Gen Z has grown up with the digital world at their fingertips. The everyday advances in technology aren’t surprising to them and neither is spending hours on the brand new super-smart gadgets. Although these are a good source of entertainment and provide a vast range of knowledge, the strain on our eyes and sometimes a source of addiction is a tag along with these devices. While a lot of us are trying to make peace with this pandemic through different coping mechanisms, the virtual world has its own sets of limitations; increasing screen time and cases of myopia that is estimated to be 5 billion by 2050, worldwide. Evidently, the reality of what has hit us remains uncertain yet to many minds.

The world in 2020 has been pushed to embrace digital technology at an unprecedented pace. The pandemic has disrupted our lives beyond recognition. The consequences of increased digital screen time, secondary to the lockdown in many places worldwide, on myopia has largely been unnoticed. While the lockdown started with Netflix and chill and some normal 5-6 hours of screen time, the development of it has been quite expected. As schools are shut down, we are hauled into our rooms to attend online classes, with extra work and assignments plus a variety of TV shows and movies we can’t afford to resist, the screen time has increased to unimaginable folds for most students.

How to navigate children's screen time during coronavirus lockdown | Deccan  Herald

Withstanding the global pandemic, digital technology has been a boon to the human population, well of course, keeping in mind the privilege which comes along with it. In such unusual times, the only reason we are able to do what we are doing right now is because of the aid of digital tech. But it also comes with certain disadvantages of its own such as excessive screen time leading to a lot of physical and psychosocial issues.

According to some researchers, the screen time for children between the age group of 5-15 has spiked up by 100 per cent since the first lockdown. In another survey of parents who have children within the same age group state that their children are spending at least additional 5 hours on an average due to the online classes. For many parents the issue is not just screen time but what content does a child consume during those hours of screen time. Experts and parents are worried that this excess time has led to children taking inappropriate content and even more unhealthy obsession with social media. Pertaining to the actuality that digital tech and social media is not all safe, where children are cyberbullied that is not unusual nowadays.

Schools_on_high_alert_as_gadget – Kachcha Chittha

With much reluctance, a debate has been raised about what is the ideal screen time for children. While WHO has given limits and restrictions for particular age groups with the amount of screen time in it, many experts say the way we should look at screen time amidst this pandemic should be different. In the words of an expert, “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. It was imperative to make a distinction between productive and unproductive screen time.”

The information consumed by us is vital while considering the increasing screen time during quarantine but whatever the reason is, there are various grey areas of detrimental effects the screen time has on us. On one hand, lockdown worsened the condition of those who were already addicted to their screens. On the other hand, for the leftover population, there are behavioral, physical and psychological effects. Many pieces of research state that excessive screen time can cause headaches and migraines. Close exposure to the screen causes myopia in children. Beyond the eyesight, incorrect posture while sitting in front of the laptop or computers for hours can cause chronic muscle ache in the back and neck region of the body which activates the desperate need to conduct physical activity especially outdoors.

Screen time IG | Screen time for kids, Screen time, Infographic health
Credits: piktochart

Spending hours on television or video games can lead to behavioral problems such as difficulty in concentrating and paying attention and hence degrading academics of the students. The constant urge to sit in front of a screen without any physical activity also leads to obesity, which again is very dangerous. Excessive screen time does not explicitly impede learning capabilities but can create attention deficiency and extreme mood alterations in children which in turn disrupts learning capabilities. Repeated exposure to violent tv shows can actually reinforce that same behavior within children therefore the need to regulate screen time and adult supervision with healthy limitations for children and adolescents are very crucial. Moreover, too much time on screen causes disturbed sleep cycles leading to sleep deprivation and even insomnia.

Some Simple ways to reduce screen time:

  1. Taking regular breaks from devices.
  2. Old school phone calls instead of video calls.
  3. Using features like digital Wellbeing and focus mode on your mobile phones.
  4. Get more into reading books and listening to podcasts.
  5. After online classes, taking time off for some physical activity instead of taking breaks in between to play games on your smartphones.
  6. Taking a break in between, doing literally nothing so that your eyes can take rest.

To end with, it is crucial to find a balance between screen-based and non-screen-based activities. But the balance is also different for all individuals.  And while content and context of the screen time matters, the ideal is a myth for it. Rather the right amount of screen time can be optimal and can help us grow, develop, indulge in good practices all within this ongoing pandemic. There are no written rules which are standardized to screen time. For children, the time is different and so is for adults but now, the norms are rewritten in this pandemic. There is a new side to screen time we have to face. The digital world is all we have to remain connected and therefore the paranoia, fear, apprehensions from parents and even children themselves regarding increasing screen time is legitimate but it all comes down to what we are taking in during that screen time including the precautions and some self-care. Tough times calls for tough measures, and therefore, now is the time for making our digital wellbeing a priority; it is time to look at screens with a different sight.

Aashita Batra is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Shaireen Khan

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.

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Written by Aashita Batra

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