Distancing ourselves from screens— well, seems unthinkable as of now. From laptops to smartphones, technological advance is getting embedded in daily life. This seems more relevant when we peep into present world through the prism of a pandemic. Screens appear as the sole facilitators for education, economics, and almost every aspect of our world. Besides online education, all sorts of connectivity, from official to social, have shifted invariably to screen during these stressful times.
So, screens have turned indispensable for us. However, depending upon the time we spend on screen, many associated health hazards have become inescapable. In addition to established problems of posture and eyes, the potential risk that smartphone pose on psychological and social front is also being studied worldwide right now. The amount of time we, especially adults and children, spend on screen has the potential to damage our mind and body. From eyes to posture to sleep cycles, screen poses an impending risk on our overall wellbeing.
Some researchers suggest that screen time rewires our brains, particularly for little ones. While using screen even for short durations, our eyes experience fatigue called ‘screen fatigue’. It is similar to what happens to our muscles when you spend too much time working physically. Screen fatigue is also called computer vision syndrome (CVS) and it is quite common. Apparently ensuing eye damage, screen spoils the whole process of mental functioning. From scattered to shallow thinking, the cognitive capacities are debilitated as we stop building and framing our own unique ideas by surplus sharing of what others think. This over a long period numbs down our perceptive outlook completely.
Leading techno critic and American writer, Nicholas Carr, believes that our habit of seeking others opinions and ideas on the internet is jeopardizing our originality and higher-order thinking. Lampooning the disproportionate usage of the Internet in his Pulitzer Prize finalist book The Shallows, he writes-“We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic forest…dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture”. With its second edition published in 2020, Carr’s The Shallows is considered as a modern classic now, rather than being turned down as an “an anti-technology rant or Luddite manifesto”. Interestingly, Carr’s 2008 famous article in The Atlantic titled ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?’ created ripples across the world, raking up a differently distinctive viewpoint.
Yet another writer-cum-scientist Devra Davis, the National Book Award finalist, in her well researched and revealing book Disconnect explains how smartphone radiation is a ‘national emergency’ given the adverse consequences it spawns. She vehemently stresses upon taking steps to restrain smartphone radiation exposures that damage DNA, weaken the blood-brain barrier, and unleash destructive free radials throughout the body. She ends her book on a reprove note—“Years from now our grandchildren will look back and ask: Did we do the right thing and act to protect them, or did we harm them needlessly, irresponsibly, and permanently, blinded by the addictive delights of our technological age?”
With children confined to home due to Covid-19 lockdown and screens becoming an unavoidable tool of their learning—we are pushed into a worrisome world. Besides attending their online classes, many of them continue to be on the screen, watching YouTube, TV and video games that offer them easy and addictive ways for leisure. This practice is resulting in impaired sleep habits, psychological issues, postural and eye problems in them.
Further, so far as the use of the screen for educational purpose is concerned, it is not just about the issue of time spent on screens, but what’s more important is that what’s happening on screen. Experts suggest that there should be shorter on-screen interactive classes and more project-based learning that children can pursue without a laptop/computer. Some experts also suggest that teachers need to reframe their strategy of teaching and focus on giving assignments to the children that would take children away from screens. For many of us, taking a ‘Techno-Sabbath’ for some time can also help a great deal. It works when we plunge back with untangled mind!
Bottomline: Pandemic has made screen an inseparable part of our living. But screen time entails a lot of spoiling in multiple areas. Both adults and children are reeling under an immense onslaught of technology that is weakening intellectual levels and increasing our dependency on technology. This should sound as an alarm.