Harms to health and wellness
A consensus is growing around the links between screen time and poor health.
A screen is a screen. Prolonged screen time, whether for entertainment purposes or educational purposes, contributes to negative physical and mental health outcomes for young people. And for many young people, there is little distinction between education and entertainment: the devices on which they complete their schoolwork are the same ones where they chat with their friends and watch videos.
Up to 9 hours a day. Studies have estimated that young people spend between six and nine hours a day in front of a screen, excluding schoolwork. In many schools, much of the in-class instruction and homework occurs on a laptop or tablet, so this number is likely to be significantly higher for many students.
Proven harms. The physical effects of screen overuse are numerous, including disrupted sleep, decreased physical activity, an increase in obesity, and a propensity to myopia. A host of mental health harms are associated with screen overuse–and the resulting poor sleep and lack of physical activity–and can include increased incidences of emotional dysregulation, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, binge eating, depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviors. Cyberbullying further contributes to both physical and mental harms, leading to harmful behaviors such as substance abuse, eating disorders, and sleep disturbance.
A bipartisan consensus. Politicians of all political stripes are working to create stronger protections for young people online, particularly around privacy and mental health. While additional protections are desirable, we at EdTech Law Center believe that many laws already exist that can help families hold EdTech accountable for their exploitative practices. Those laws simply need to be enforced.
Treat Big Tech like Big Tobacco to protect our kids. Fox News (June 15, 2023).
Growing concern for well-being of children and young people amid soaring screen time. UNICEF (February 2021).
Bedtime screen use and sleep outcomes (April 2023)
Screen time linked to higher risk of ADHD (May 2022)