The digital gap is increasing — we need to act now!
Why screen time is harming an entire generation and questions we should find answers to.
You’re looking at this screen, reading my words. You’re giving me your most valuable asset. It’s non-renewable and strictly limited: your focused attention. By giving me the next minutes of your attention, you will understand which questions decision-makers around the globe should be figuring out to answer right now.
Every morning, 7:30 AM, when I used to approach the school building (before COVID-19), there was an odd silence. Students stood quietly, almost neatly aligned in a row, laid against the wall. Hardly aware of their surroundings, these students had hands and eyes glued to their smartphone screens. When I asked my teenage students about their hobbies, the most common answer, “watching my phone” or as they like to label themselves “Miss Keiffenheim, we are hobby free persons.”
According to research, a typical teen in the U.S. spends 7 hours 40 minutes a day in front of screens. And there is a digital gap among different income levels. Teens from lower-income families spend 8 hours, 7 minutes in front of screens compared to their higher-income peers who have a screen time of only 5 hours, 42 minutes. Moreover, Two studies that look at race have found that white children are exposed to screens significantly less than African-American and Hispanic children.
House quarantine could be a key driver in a digital gap increase. As socio-economically privileged families have more living space than socio-economically less privileged families, the activity options besides “smartphone watching and gaming” vary significantly. There is no research yet, but my guess is, that in house quarantine Maximilian-Leopold (sorry for stereotyping) is currently playing the piano or reading a book, while Kev is still sleeping because he played Fortnite until dawn.
But what should we do about the excessive amount of time teens spend in front of screens? Should we blame parents for not restricting the screen time of their children? Or are our teens too weak-willed because they can’t take their eyes off of phones? I’m not here to blame anyone.