The pandemic has accelerated the deployment of laptops and tablets for all high school students. The lined sheets and the lead pencil are over: welcome to the digital age! Obviously, I understand the urgency and the need to deploy electronic equipment when a global situation calls for distance education. However, I observe that the trend is maintained despite the return to class and the reduction in health measures. Contrary to this technological wave, I consider that the school should better supervise, even limit the use of digital tools.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that adolescents aged 12 to 17 limit their screen time to a maximum of two hours per day to reduce their risk of sedentary lifestyle and the quality of their sleep. At school fifteen years ago, students could have a period or two per cycle in computer science, while today they can have projects that require a technological tool in almost any subject.
Of course, not all teachers use IT tools, nor are they used every period. However, in certain cases – such as certain programs with a computer concentration – the time spent in front of screens greatly exceeds the recommendations of professionals, and this only within the school. If schools do not have a screen time policy in place, students will ultimately be able to spend almost 300 minutes, four periods of 75 minutes, in front of a screen in a day at school. Should we also remember that a large majority of students have a cell phone, which they consult at noon as well as during their breaks?
When it comes to cellphones, teachers often have to juggle to control the use of these devices in the classroom. This challenge is added to that of watching over thirty students hidden behind their screens with multiple open windows: Classroom, Alloprof, an online shopping site (oops!) And an Internet game (again oops!). Although schools have blocked some sites, these access restrictions also have their limits, and the causes of distraction have multiplied! As an adult, I have a hard time not opening a Facebook tab or checking an email while in college. So, how can we ensure that adolescents do an optimal management of their digital tools for their success?
Then the bell rings, and laptops or tablets are heading home so students can continue to study digitally, complete work or just browse the Internet. The school’s digital tools are left on the shoulders of parents until the next morning. Certainly, parents can download parental control apps that normally apply to their child’s school accounts as well. On the other hand, the parent who wants to educate his teenager to limit his screen time no longer knows how many hours he has already done during his day. Also, does he feel comfortable telling his child to put his laptop away when he has to finish his work in Classroom?
I am not denying certain benefits and advantages that screens offer in the school world. On the other hand, how can we help young people to find a balance if the school does not adopt a clear policy concerning the screen time of its pupils? Many parents care about digital issues, and it is time for the school to take responsibility for this situation as well.