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How safe are “Online Classes”? Screen time and Children
7/1/2020 11:46:01 PM

Ravinder Jalali

In view of current pandemic and COVID 19, normal functioning of almost all schools and various educational institutions has come to a grinding halt. These include private as well as government institutions. Mushroom growth of tuition centres has also been affected, although it was not considered necessary in past but has gained much more importance not because of any problem with institutional education but due to social order and owing to competitive environment. The schools which are closed at present and it seems that they are unlikely going to open any soon and has resulted into beginning of a new era of online classes.
In one of the surveys conducted, to feel the pulse of parents, it was found that about 60 % of parents are in favour of online classes in schools and about 30 % parents are for total ban. The survey was conducted in more than 200 districts. Ministry of HRD has issued no guidelines in this regard so far on online education. In one of the surveys on social media more than 49% of parents have consented to go for online classes but not for more two hours per day, which proves that online classes and the exposure of children to screen is not without any side effects. About 31% of parents have asked for continuous of ban of online classes. Low %age of 15% has said that online classes should be for a regular class of 4-6 hours a day. Some state governments have banned the online classes for students of class fifth and below on the ground that it will lead to over exposure of young children to screens. One more reason and the valid one that in a country like India large number of people which includes children and parents have no access to such gadgets or do not have internet connections hence deprived of the facility. The health hazard of exposure to small screen is another issue..
Coaching/Tuition centres have also resorted to online classes. Now it is to be seen whether schools, mostly private and coaching centres that are largely private are doing this online classes for the benefit of students or for their commercial interests. Going by the statements of the owners of these institutions it seems that they value their financial interest more than the care of students. Some schools have said that since they have invested heavily on online projects and will be of no use if online classes are discontinued. It clearly shows that they are bothered about their infrastructure rather than the health of the kids. Many parents have also given the same reason of investing in laptop and internet connection for online classes which will become useless if online classes are to be shut. The question is not of investment but the health hazards of online classes particularly for small children. Some of the parents are also of the same opinion that online classes should continue and is better for students as compared to watching TV etc. for longer times. We are going to see the impact of classes on children but the ill effects on the body and mind of the students by watching small screen for longer periods. The current several Lockdowns have also proved that the entire education segment does not fall into essential category like food grains, vegetables, Cereals and medicines. It has also proved how life is going on with bare minimum necessities and without any spurious items being added.
All those institutions and coaching centres who are advocating that online classes should continue are least interested about the welfare of the children but are interested in their income. Now one more thing is that they are saving on infrastructure, power consumption like ACs and can accommodate any number of children, thereby generating more revenue. Parents and govt. should see to it that education is not disturbed and commercialised to the extent that it is treated like a financial market.
In India almost 27 crore children have been effected by lockdown. Government may consider another year as year for conducting exam and declare mass promotion to the next level. Migration of labour has also been one of the reasons to ban online classes because they have no access to such infrastructure as yet.
Children and technology are practically inseparable these days. Whether for educational purposes or just fun, children are spending a good portion of their day on "screen time"- staring at the LED screens of computers, tablets, smartphones and other digital devices. According to some media reports, children under age 8 now spend more than two hours a day with screen media. For 8 to 10 year-olds, screen time triples to six hours a day. And it's not unusual for kids in middle school and high school to spend up to nine hours per day looking at digital displays. Now the question is, if all this screen time cause problems for your child's eyes and vision, the short answer is: "Yes, it does." Children who spend many hours staring at digital devices are at risk of developing these vision-related problems:
Too much unsupervised computer work may cause vision problems for kids. Computer vision syndrome is one of the vision related problems also called digital eye strain — is a condition that's caused by visual stress from extended screen time. Unhealthy posture is another computer related problem. When using a computer or digital device for prolonged periods, it's common to start slouching inward, rounding the back and shoulders, and then tilt the head back and jut the chin forward. This unnatural (and unhealthy) posture leads to many of the non-visual symptoms of computer vision syndrome. Near sightedness is one more issue. Vision researchers believe increased screen time among children is a significant risk factor for the development and progression of near sightedness.(myopia).
It's not realistic to think that children will stop using modern technology. But there are some easy things you can do to decrease your child's risk of eye and vision problems from prolonged use of computers and digital devices: One of the best things you can do to reduce your child's risk of digital eye strain is to get them to follow the "20-20-20" rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your screen and look at something that's at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. It’s long been an accepted wisdom that too much time spent sitting in front of the TV is bad for us. It has also been linked with disruptions to sleep; one hour of TV viewing per day for kids can shorten sleep by seven minutes per day. Keeping TVs and other devices out of kid’s bedrooms is a really important step. If it’s in their bedroom, they’ll use it more, and without supervision, they’re more likely to access things they shouldn’t. It’s also important to take an interest in what they’re watching or playing. Parents have to impose a few restrictions and maintain some control over the type and amount of media their kids are accessing.
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