The Students are Still Watching

Submitted By:
Jonathan Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI

Screen Time for Kids Is Fine! Unless It's Not by Matt Reynolds
Wired, March 29, 2024

The Bad Science Behind Jonathan Haidt's Call to Regulate Social Media by Aaron Brown
Reason Foundation, April 2, 2024

It Sure Looks Like Phones Are Making Students Dumber by Derek Thompson
The Atlantic, December 19, 2023

When parents practice good screen habits, it rubs off on the whole family by MindShift
KQED, March 14, 2023

When Kids Are Addicted to Their Phones, Who is to Blame? by Kathryn Jezer-Morton
The Cut, New York, March 30, 2024

Jonathan Haidt’s articles and book (reviewed in several previous editions of Klingbrief) have kicked off some major reflection on the role of screens in teens’ lives. This brief gathers up several reviews and commentaries to deepen the discussion.

As some scholars and journalists have questioned Haidt’s conclusions (notably, here, from libertarian outfit Reason and here, in Wired), others support Haidt’s larger point about screen-free schools (notably, Derek Thompson’s deep dive into the data confirming drops in standardized test scores associated with screen time). Schools, meanwhile, are left grappling with what to do. It turns out that the students are still watching, and here is what they see: a teacher’s quick glance at email while showing a documentary in class, an administrator walking down the hallway scrolling through emails, and their parents on the sidelines at games checking email or swiping on Instagram. In a KQED MindShift article from 2023, notably published before Jon Haidt’s sobering and much-discussed work, researchers found that “when [parents] practice basic boundaries and good screen habits, this also rubs off on the whole family.” This observation can be extended to school, as well; without broader reflection on the role of screens in adult lives, students won’t learn effective habits or be able to make better choices about screen time. Few dispute the import of Haidt’s larger points, but the prescriptive side of his books and articles have come under criticism for neglecting the larger encroachment of screens into all of our lives, students and their adults alike. The upshot, as the provocative subtitle of this reflection from The Cut indicates, is that “parents can’t change their kids’ relationships to their screens without also addressing their own.”

Teaching Practice
Student Wellness & Safety