Technology balancing act in schools

Study: Average 8-year-old spends eight hours of 'screen time' per day

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics finds the average 8-year-old is looking at some sort of screen for about 8 hours every day, but doctors say kids should only have a maximum of about one or two hours of screen time each day.

As more and more technology is integrated into schools, that’s becoming more difficult.

In a decade, the amount of technology in the classroom has increased dramatically.

Today, in some school districts, iPads are given to students as an additional tool for learning, butt with the risks to children of overexposure to screens, technology in the classroom is becoming quite the balancing act.

In the Sparta School District, students in the high school will all be getting brand new Google Chromebooks this fall. Students in grades six through eight already use the Chromebook, and in grades four and five, each student has an iPad.

“The 1:1 really gives the student access to their curriculum and interaction with their teacher on a daily basis that they wouldn’t have in a shared environment,” said Nick Rowlett, technology supervisor for the Sparta School District.

Teachers in the district are encouraged to use the technology as a part of their daily lessons.

“I think our approach is that we will use it as an instructional tool, as a learning tool,” said Elizabeth Dostal, director of instruction for the Sparta School District.

But district officials know that having too much screen time isn’t helping their students learn.

“I think balance is the key word in that equation. The fact that students are going to use technology as a integral piece when they’re learning, but there’s also a time and a place where they need to read, they need to think, they need to manipulate physical things, and they also need to have some physical activity,” Dostal said.

In Sparta schools, it’s up to the teacher to decide how much time the class can be using a laptop or iPad, but when the students are on “screen time” it’s going to be beneficial.

“We try to make our screen time focused, guided, supervised, interactive as much as possible, so it’s not an entertainment type of screen time, it’s a very focused type of activity,” Rowlett said.

“Technology doesn’t replace the teacher, it doesn’t replace the learning or the student, it’s just the vehicle that allows us to not only get at the content and the knowledge that’s out there, but also to think critically about it,” Dostal said.

Dostal said technology is a good way to teach kids how to be critical thinkers.

It helps them understand that not everything they read on the Internet is factual and helps them understand bias and the need to evaluate multiple sources when searching for the answer to a question.

A 2013 study by the American Association of Pediatrics concluded that children under the age of 2 should have no screen time at all.

It also found that long periods of screen time for kids causes them to gain weight.