December 4, 2023

How much time kids spend staring at digital screens is not a new concern. But with more and more school work being done online, worries about the impact on student well-being are rising.

Average screen use for kids ages 8 to 18 rose sharply—by 17 percent—from 2019 to 2021, according to a survey released earlier this year by Common Sense Media.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages 2 to 5 spend no more than an hour a day looking at any sort of digital screen. But the AAP does not specify time limits for school or recreational use for older school-age children.

The impact that the increased screen time will likely have on K-12 students’ development and social skills is yet to be seen. And educators have to weigh the potential benefits of expanded use of digital devices against the potentially negative effects of increased screen time.

Here’s a collection of articles Education Week has published on screen time and its effects on student behavior and academic performance.

How much screen time is too much?

High school students in Coral Gables, Fla., work together on a tablet during a history class.

Two experts talked to Education Week about how worried educators should be about all the time students spend looking at a Chromebook, iPad, or cellphone screen, especially if it’s followed by hours of television or video games.

A meta-analysis published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that more overall time on screens each day, regardless of its quality, is linked to lower language development.

Other research findings have also raised questions about what effect all this digital use could have on students’ reading skills.

Screen time’s link to bad behavior, low test scores

Close up of student's hands on their desk in the classroom and holding a smartphone

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Teachers say they see the effects of heightened digital exposure in the classroom. A majority of educators said students’ learning challenges rose along with their increased screen time and that student behavior worsened with more screen time, according to an EdWeek Research Center survey.

Here’s what some principals had to say about how the proliferation of digital devices are affecting students, teachers, and school life in general.

How to manage students’ screen time

Young Black boy working on his laptop and wearing headphones.

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In this downloadable guide, teachers and remote-learning experts provide nine easy ways to find a healthy balance of on-screen and off-screen time for students.

The role of media literacy

Fake News concept with gray words 'fact' in row and single bold word 'fake' highlighted by black magnifying glass on blue background


Because students are spending more time online, they’re also coming into contact with more misinformation and advertising, which have been supercharged by big data and algorithms. In turn, there’s a growing push to teach media literacy skills in schools to help students navigate these challenges. New Jersey could be the first to require public schools to teach media literacy skills.

Other media literacy advocates are also encouraging parents and teachers to start early in teaching kids how to be more responsible online. Waiting until later in elementary school—or even middle or high school—puts children at a disadvantage, educators say.


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