On the bus on the way to school, on your phone. Period 1 maths class, on your phone under the desk. Morning break, everyone is playing games on their phones. In English class, scrolling through Instagram under the desk. During lunch, snapchat the funny things happening with your mates. Practice after school, sneaking a look at your notifications whenever you can. School is boring enough, shouldn’t we be able to entertain ourselves by going on our phones when we want to?

While this may seem slightly exaggerated for some students, this is the reality of screen time at schools today. It takes up insane amounts of our learning time and is with us virtually wherever we go. Social media is addictive, and that’s basically the explanation to all of this. From compulsive checking and oversharing to the loss of scholastic opportunities, we may also be putting our education at risk.

Just how deep does the problem go? Seventy-two percent of online people use social media and the average user spends 23 hours a week on it. 23 hours! That’s almost an entire day per week spent entirely on your phone. So why are we using social media for the same amount of time as a part-time job? Most of us claim that school piles too much work on us and that we are too busy, but when we spend this much time on our phones, can we really complain?

A lot of students may not realise they are addicted to their social media. This isn’t unusual, as we all have a fundamental need to be accepted by our peers. When we post something to Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, we want to see that contribution validated. We want our participation to matter, to be accepted by others… even total strangers. These minor validations can act as pleasure-inducing “hits” much like an addictive drink or drug and can find people taking their social media habits to unhealthy extremes.

This problem isn’t going to magically go away. Social media only gets better, app creators get more inventive, the content becomes addictive. They make sure you won’t simply get bored. Therefore, it has to be a conscious effort on your behalf to cut down on screen time. This can be really difficult so you may want to start small, but with a large goal in mind. On iPhones now there is a setting that monitors your daily screen time. Depending on your average, try and bring your average amount of hours spent on your phone daily down by even just 15 minutes a week– until you hit your goal time. Just remember your phone is meant to be propelling you forward, not holding you back.

However, until all students learn to limit their own screen time, should schools step in? This could function by schools accounting for all student devices during the day, and only allowing students to have access to them for a certain number of hours per day. This may also mean using a whiteboard and a pen & paper to learn, rather than using tablets at computers at school. Phones aren’t the only problem, screen time in any form adds up to the number of hours per day spent staring at a monitor.

Imagine how much homework you could get done — and how more spare time you would then have — if you spend 30 percent less time on social media. Imagine how different your education could be if your time at school was spent learning about the incredible world around you, rather than staring at your screen!

Critical Questions:

  1. Why do you think being reducing screen time at school is important?
  2. Do you think it is important to reduce screen time in general or just time on social media? 
  3. What are the educational benefits of cutting down screen time? Think both mental and physical aspects.

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. How are three easy ways during your day you can personally reduce your screen time at school? i.e. not bringing your phone to school.  
  2. Ask your parents if they think having phones and other devices at school is a good thing or a bad thing – and how it would have made their education different.    
  3. Do you think you can give up some screen time at school each day? List reasons you should and reasons why you don’t want to. What is more important to you.  

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