New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) The coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented measures taken worldwide to contain its spread have disrupted nearly every aspect of children’s lives. Caregivers and educators are trying to find new ways to keep children learning by developing online and offline learning materials.

However, there are growing concerns that children may not be receiving an in-depth education and are spending too much time in front of computers or with mobile phones.

The FICCI ARISE (Alliance for Re-imagining School Education) organised an webinar on ‘Good Screen Time vs Bad Screen Time’, 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 cyber security. There were several questions raised on whether it is advisable to write off this academic year and catch up later to addressing the issues of fear of screen time and technology.

An alumnus of Harvard University, educated in Mind, Brain and Education, Vishnu Karthik stressed on the importance of continuity of learning in managing learning loss, maintaining rituals and routines and managing stress. He said 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.

Karthik said screen time where an adult is on the other side engaging children in the process of learning cannot 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 allow the child to work independently. In affect, it is the quality of the interaction and content that matter and not so much the time.

Ravindrana, a renowned education psychologist and trainer, said: “It is not a good idea to expose children to screens, below the age of two. However, for children above three 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 role of parental guidance in digital learning. He said: “As long as there is a healthy diet, adequate sleep and play time and no extra-ordinary signs of distress, any anxiety over too much screen time is not necessary.” He further added that instead of stigmatising and demonising screen time, 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 among parents and children, another issue that the webinar addressed was on cyber security which was taken up by cyber security expert Rakshit Tandon.

“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, 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 are, therefore, more suitable as against a tablet, book or mobile phone held closely 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 seconds, similarly for the 20 minute 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 the eyes.

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

FICCI Alliance for Re-Imagining School Education(FICCI ARISE) is a collegium of members representing various facets of the education ecosystem, who have come together to promote the need of quality education for all and the role independent schools can play in achieving this. The primary focus of the alliance is defining norms for standards and transparency, augmenting quality for 21st century readiness, policy advocacy and facilitating capacity building and access.

–IANS

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