In the movie Harry Potter, Dementors are dark creatures that consume human happiness, creating an ambience of coldness, darkness, misery and despair. Because of their power to drain happiness and hope from humans, Dementors guarded Azkaban, a remote island prison, where they prevent prisoners from having the will or ability to escape.
I often joke with students that their iPads, iPhones and other devices are dementors, sucking young souls into the cold virtual world of misery and despair. The sad thing is, I’m not joking. To be frank, too much screen time dements children. More and more studies are showing that bad things are happening to brains hooked into gaming, social media & screens:
1) Gray matter atrophy (Brains Shrink)1
2) Compromised white matter integrity (Brains connections break down and misfire)1
3) Reduced cortical thickness (Brains become weaker)1
4) Impaired cognitive functioning (Personal organisation suffers, lack of self-control, lack of empathy and emotional regulation)1
5) Cravings and impaired dopamine function (brains become wired for the ‘next hit’ like drug addicts)1
6) Sleep Suffers, which affects resilience2
7) Weight gain2
8) Lower feelings of self-confidence2
9) Increase in aggression2
10) Increased anxiety & depression3
Teens who spend more time than average on-screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.3
What does all this mean for the way we approach technology for learning at MCC?
It is important to understand that this research is indicative of all screens: computers, iPads, gaming consoles, smartphones and televisions. These devices are like the old adage of fire: good servants but bad masters.
Ipads still have an important function as an introductory learning device, laptops are increasingly important as students reach the BYOD stage, for their ease of use, keyboards, information storage and greater association with research, learning and workplace use. It is important that we coach their use in defined educational realms; and equally, with using devices, that we help children develop good habits of cyber citizenship.
It is also clearly important that we understand that home and school need to operate in partnership for the development of clear and healthy device use amongst our students and effective means of monitoring, protecting and defining appropriate use.
We don’t enter into the future with fear or trepidation, but with precision and effective strategies to help students develop strong convictions and practice when utilising devices.
They are entering a new world.
Mr David Elsing
Director of Teaching and Learning
- Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain
- Spinal Research Australia: https://spinalresearch.com.au/impact-screen-time-children/
- This is a ‘long form’ read, but well worth the insights: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/