The founder of Sensible Screen Use is Julie Cullen, a paediatric physiotherapist and mother of four based in Auckland.
This website was developed by a group of health professionals and educators, in response to concerns about what they were seeing clinically and in the classroom. The available research on this topic only highlighted the need to create discussion.
'We want to draw focus to the skills and use of digital tools that will enhance children's learning and opportunities in an increasingly digital world, but at developmentally appropriate levels.'
'We want to see purposeful, thoughtful and evidence-based digital technology use in schools.'
Endorsements and comments
As a Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapist who have worked with children in schools for the past 15 years, it is a relief to read such a comprehensive, considered and evidenced-based summary of the impact of technology use in schools. Too often we see schools opting for the ‘trendy’ programmes or ideas rather than ensuring the programmes that they use are founded on robust, evidence-based research. Poor understanding of neuroscience and cognitive, social, emotional and physical development of a child has resulted in an overuse rather than the complementary use of technology in schools.
Physiotherapist and Carolyn Loveday, Occupational Therapist.
I have been very much impressed with this website allowing parents to have the opportunity to be informed regarding the risks of digital technology in education. As a clinical psychologist, I am especially concerned with psychological and emotional issues from prolonged screen time such as sleep disruption, social isolation, immediate gratification, lack of empathy, decreased awareness, lowered sensitivity and the associated physical stress placed on the child’s developing brain and body.
Technology is a part of our lives. However, it is crucial that we are critically questioning how we are using technology in schools, and whether and how it is helping us to achieve our valued learning outcomes.
Dr Nina Hood
Founder, The education Hub
If a young person has friends, walks to and from school, feels the rain and the wind, I don’t think that’s enough. If they spend a significant part of their school day on a device, if they do homework and spend some recreational time on a device, it is likely to impact on their development.
Associate Professor, Fordham University
Children learn by thinking -- when it comes to technology, the right question is will it help students to think, or merely distract them? This new resource will help educators and parents navigate the complex terrain of whether and how digital technologies can enhance student learning.
Executive Director, Deans for Impact
Technology is a great enabler but it comes with potential cost for our health and wellbeing. This website helps you and your children navigate toward safer, healthier and more responsible use of media and digital technologies for happier lives.
Professor of Education, UNSW Sydney
Save the Children supports the call for purposeful, thoughtful and evidence-based technology use in our schools. We share concerns about the amount of time that children are spending on devices, particularly as evidence is beginning to emerge that too much and or poor use of devices is potentially harmful for children.
We acknowledge that digital technology is a powerful tool and is increasingly playing a significant role in the lives of children; their education, their social lives, their entertainment, and their sourcing of information. However, we are very aware this technology has the potential to harm, and that some children are being harmed through digital technology. For these reasons we recommend that children’s use of technology is balanced and is supported by their parents, carers and teachers, which may include reducing the amount of screen time in favour of other learning or recreational activities.
We also recommend children learn digital citizenship skills to support their positive decision making, and safety, in the ways they use digital technology.
Child Rights Advocacy and Research Director, Save the Children NZ
Electronic devices have been introduced into primary school classrooms across New Zealand with little or no evidence of the benefits, let alone the drawbacks. There is mounting concern among health professionals from all sectors that the effect of overuse of devices, particularly amongst young children, is far more serious than imagined. This website has gathered evidence of research that must garner all parents and educators to ask the question, ‘are we best serving the next generation by flooding classrooms with technology?'
Principal, Ficino School
One of the issues I hear about most often is homework on digital devices. Many parents try to limit their children's access to screens at home. However, this becomes impossible when kids have all their homework assignments on digital platforms. Schools are making it almost impossible for parents to manage screen time at home.
High school teacher
In many countries around the world we’ve plunged full speed ahead integrating technology into classrooms without fully understanding the potential risks of doing so. This site is a great start to looking at tech in New Zealand schools with a more thoughtful lens on children’s development. To set the next generation up for success we’ll need to be extremely intentional about how device use is integrated into their lives. The research and culture around this issue is constantly changing and what is most beneficial to one age group or culture may not be what’s best for another, so it’s important that we institute policies that can be flexible and keep up with the times.
Head of Education at Centre for humane Technology
The problem of increased screen use from an optometrist's viewpoint is the rapidly increasing rates of myopia and high myopia. See International Myopia Institute figures here.
It is well documented that myopia dramatically increases the risk of other more feared sight-threatening pathology, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
The development and progression of myopia can be affected by ‘near vision work’, including reading in hard copy or looking at a screen. There seems to be a difference however, in the amount of time a child can spend looking at a screen compared to how much time they would spend in continuous reading. When screens are used by schools for many different areas of learning (not just reading), this could lead to high levels of near work. Combined with recreational use, there is potential for a negative impact on children’s vision over time.
Parents and teachers should be aware of these risks, and also of protective factors. These include regular breaks, appropriate reading distances (>35 cm), having near-to-distance fixation changes while reading and spending time on screen, with sufficient time outdoors (minimum of 8-15 hours per week) also encouraged.
Vision is precious, and if we are mindful of the risks and knowledgable about how to limit them, we hope to have a positive impact on the incidence of myopia in childhood and adolescence.