Virtual learning means increased screen-time challenges for parents

Published: Aug. 30, 2020 at 12:08 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - For many students this year, the classroom is now on a computer screen. Experts say virtual learning and too much screen time could pose a threat to the mental and physical health of children.

From the phone, to the TV and now school. The pandemic has brought most everyone in front of screen more often.

“In this unprecedented time where we’re all spending more time on screens its definitely a concern” said Dr. Kim Barker, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Leading at Augusta University.

Research from the National Institute of Health recommends kids have no more than about 2 hours of screen-time per-day. However, the pandemic is making that goal harder to keep.

“We have to spend a certain amount of time on screens” said Dr.Barker. “So, we have to plan for times we can have a digital recess.”

She says the biggest risks of too much screen-time for kids is less time being physically active and more sleep problems. Most virtual learning options in our area, including Richmond and Aiken counties, have kids learning on screens for only a certain amount of time, then doing work off the laptop for the remainder of the day.

“It’s just such a huge change from the traditional classroom,” said Alaina Simpson. Simpson has two kids learning virtually this year.

“And, I mean, even as an adult I find it hard to stay focused during ZOOM meetings. I can’t imagine how it is for little kids you know, it’s going to be quite a challenge” she said.

To curb the amount of time her kids spend in front of the screen, Simpson is planning to schedule in screen breaks.

“I definitely want them to take a break, you know, ’let’s go do something else, rest your eyes,’” she said.

Taking breaks from the screen is just what Dr. Barker says parents with kids learning virtually should do.

“I feel like because of COVID-19 we’re all spending more time on screens,” said Dr. Barker. “So, it’s important that we talk about it, that we keep studying the effects, and that we are very intentional about how we incorporate this additional time into our lives” she said.

However, its not too bad, Dr. Barker says learning virtually does have some benefits, especially when it comes to learning literacy. New research on the true effects of virtual learning are still a work in progress.

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