How do we know that screen time is not good for growing brains? There is a lot of research out there that demonstrates the challenges of screen time. It’s too much for my little space here, so I’ll list some books below for those of you who want to dive deep.
It’s a tricky thing to test because quantifying any effects on our brains require human beings and ethical conditions. It’s nearly impossible to pull off direct, controlled studies of anything when humans (especially children) are involved. So we use a lot of surveys or other indirect studies. I’ll highlight a couple of powerful findings.
A child under the age of 12 (maybe others, but the testing was on children under 12) has a lower metabolism when they are sitting in front of a screen, than when they are sitting alone in a plain white room. This does not say so much about physical health (although that is certainly important), as it does about the stimulation of the brain and the overall physical effect on the child. It’s powerful.
On the other end of the age spectrum, multiple studies have linked increased depression and anxiety in adolescents with screen time. This is pretty broad and can mean a lot of things. Is social media making kids feel stressed and left out? Is gaming isolating kids socially? Are kids who spend a lot of time on devices less likely to develop social skills and interact with their peers? Or are depressed/anxious kids more likely to go to their devices for solace?
The Montessori philosophy is that children are more stimulated and learn more from the actual experience, from having the concrete right in front of them. So anything abstract or virtual is already less valuable to us curricularly. Screen time falls into the category of “not hands on” for the most part. It’s not real life. The most compelling research is really our own anecdotal experience. There is no doubt in our minds that students who experience limited screen time focus better, are more engaged in learning, and usually have a spark that kids who are in front of screens for unlimited amounts of time don’t. It’s difficult to prove scientifically, but it’s powerful when we see it over and over again.