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Researchers recommend balanced screen use in schools

Hibiscus Coast App

Staff Reporter

08 July 2024, 6:30 PM

Researchers recommend balanced screen use in schoolsClinicians have seen a surge in children with screen-related health issues, says researcher Julie Cullen.

Coasties are urged to balance screen time for students, as new guidelines recommend limiting digital technology use in schools to mitigate health risks while harnessing educational benefits.

Kiwi children have some of the highest screen usage rates globally, with Māori and low socioeconomic-background young people over-represented, according to Julie Cullen, a paediatric physiotherapist and screen researcher at the University of Auckland.

“A number of years ago, I started noticing an increasing number of children coming through the clinic who had issues that seemed to relate to frequent screen use,” Cullen said.

Cullen and her team evaluated evidence and consulted with health researchers, educators, clinicians, and technology experts.

Their findings show that while moderate use of digital technologies can offer educational and social benefits, excessive screen time has been linked to health issues, including dry eye, myopia, loss of physical fitness, noise-induced hearing loss, and pain syndromes.

For older children, technology can offer mental health and cognitive benefits if quality content is prioritised over screen time.

The researchers’ recommendations, endorsed by the New Zealand Paediatric Society, aim to find a balance between educational benefits and potential harms.

The guidelines suggest minimal screen use for children up to six years old, with no screens for under two-year-olds.

For six to 12-year-olds, screen use for learning should be limited to no more than a third of the school day.

From 13 to 18 years, the emphasis is on balanced screen use, with regular eye breaks and limited headphone or earbud use.

“Our hope is to spark conversation and offer evidence on how to find a healthy balance between the educational benefits of technology and potential harms,” Cullen said.

These recommendations come as the United Nations calls for urgent discussion and regulation of digitisation in education.