As students are spending more time engaging with online learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, experts say they’re seeing kids hit their limits with too much screen time.
Although there are several benefits to online learning, it doesn’t come without some negative side effects.
“The learning can be very one dimensional, so it’s not interactive, communicational,” said Dawn McBride, associate psychology professor at the University of Lethbridge.
“In addition, you’re also not blinking as often when you are looking at a screen, which means the tear ducts are not getting moisture, the moisture on the lens and so forth,” she added.
“A lot of stress can be shown in physical ways, headaches, but in addition, all the eye strain can lead to tension.”
McBride goes on to say increased exposure to screens can be problematic for one’s posture, neck, back and hands.
Further, McBride says online learning isn’t a great way to help children develop their motor skills either.
Cheryl Hatten, chair of the early childhood education program at Lethbridge College, says with heightened online learning, break time from screens has become more crucial than ever before.
“Some of the things teachers can do is…. if there are opportunities for students to get up and move away from their computers,” Hatten explained.
“So, give them a task, let them sign out of Zoom, do their task and then come back,” she said.
Hatten adds going outside and getting some exercise during breaks can be hugely beneficial.
She also says with the bombardment of online tools, people in general become easily distracted, which can decrease their ability to pick up on social cues when it comes to in-person situations.
Both the Lethbridge and Holy Spirit School Divisions say students are still using textbooks regularly and variation in routines is being implemented.
“It’s really about having that balance of instruction online and work on their own, and so, I think that mirrors what would be happening in a classroom anyway,” said Michelle MacKinnon, director of student services with the Holy Spirit School Division.
MacKinnon says students are also being encouraged to play more board games and do puzzles with their families in order to spend more time doing interactive and socialization activities.
Additionally, she says Zoom does offer the opportunity for teachers to assign group work as students can break out into smaller cohorts on the app.
When it comes to individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds who may not have the luxury of buying new games and puzzles, McKinnon says teachers can get creative and find inexpensive ways for students to do others activities around their home or even outside in nature to help distract them and serve as educational opportunities.
The Games Galore & Billiard Store in Lethbridge says they’ve seen an uptick in the number of parents coming in and asking for fun and educational games to help distract their children from screens.
“A lot of board games have a lot of problem solving involved in them now, so a lot of those games are being incorporated into the classroom because it involves planning ahead and executing your move and trying to anticipate your opponents as well,” said Chase Young, supervisor at the Games Galore & Billiard Store.
Chase goes on to say the store has been getting more requests for games which enhance motor skills and can be fun for the entire family as well.