Square eyes and sharp minds: screen time, reconsidered

For as long as we can remember, screen time has been widely regarded as a very bad thing.

Nowadays, we acknowledge the necessity of technology in the modern world, yet we blame screen time for everything; from shortening attention spans to decreasing human connections. However, not all screen time is created equal.

It’s important to differentiate between passive consumption of media – for example, mindlessly watching cat videos on YouTube – and active engagement, like content creation. An example of this would be producing a video using an iPad.

Instead of placing a resolute restriction on screen time for children, parents should concern themselves with the subject matter of their child’s on-screen attention. One needs to ask, ‘how are they using the device?’ and ‘will it help them to better engage with the world?’

Apple, one of the few tech players that understands its social responsibility, takes this very seriously. Apple’s Screen Time monitors the amount of time spent on the device. What’s more, it shows where and how the time is spent. For example, is the bulk of time allocated to productivity tools, or is it being spent on social media?

While this can be terrifying, awareness is the first step towards changing behaviour – more mindful screen time allows us to better tap into technology’s potential, while circumventing the side effects.

It’s easy to blame screen time for all the pitfalls of modern society, without taking into account that technology itself is just a tool – the power lies in the hands of the user.

To manifest genuine value from any device – be it an iPad, iPhone or laptop – there is an expectation of self-regulation on behalf of the user or caregiver.