Something has been concerning me for a while now.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how technology has become necessary in our lives. Not a day goes by that I’m not phone-in-hand or at my computer. Thing is, this is also becoming the case in schools. My students are on their Chromebooks daily for various tasks and I find myself asking them to “look at the screen” in the front of the room as I project a new lesson example or video to watch.
However, research* has shown us time and again how harmful too much screen time can be to students’ brains, especially those who have experienced trauma.One psychologist, Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley, coined the term electronic screen syndrome**, where students can become more impulsive, moody, and develop attention issues due to too much screen time. This is particularly concerning for students who have experienced trauma, as they are already at a higher risk of cognitive and emotional difficulties.
The impact of technology on developing brains can be significant, affecting various aspects such as attention, memory, emotional regulation, and social behavior. And while I’m all for technology, when students spend extended periods fixated on screens, they miss out on opportunities to engage in activities that can actually help them. When on screens, students are absorbing information without actively processing it or interacting meaningfully with their peers or instructors.
If I can be honest, I think these are things we know innately… It’s just a gut feeling that too much screen time can affect a person’s mental health. (And perhaps you’ve seen it right in front of your eyes!)
That’s why I strongly believe that we need to incorporate more hands-on, creative, and artistic experiences in the classroom. These types of activities not only engage the whole child (no matter the age), but also promote social connection and emotional regulation, which are crucial for all students, especially those who have experienced trauma.
Research has shown that activities such as drawing, painting, music, and drama can have a positive impact on students’ cognitive, emotional, and social development***. These activities can help students regulate their emotions, express themselves, and develop a sense of mastery and control over their environment. They also provide opportunities for students to collaborate with their peers and engage in meaningful social interactions, which can be particularly important for those who have experienced trauma.
Incorporating more hands-on, creative, and artistic experiences in the classroom does not mean abandoning technology altogether. Instead, it means using technology in a way that supports, rather than detracts from, students’ cognitive and emotional development. For example, students could use technology to create digital art, music, or videos, or to research and explore topics related to their artistic or creative interests. (Maybe you already do some of these things in your classroom!)
I know that incorporating more hands-on, creative, and artistic experiences in the classroom may require some adjustments to the curriculum and some teaching methods, but it is worth it. Not only will it benefit students who have experienced trauma, but it will also enhance the learning experience for all students by promoting creativity, collaboration, and emotional regulation.
That’s why I’m so excited for you to participate in The SEAL Week Challenge!
This challenge is an excellent opportunity for teachers to learn creative ways to help their students develop their social and emotional skills. By participating in this challenge, you will have access to a wealth of resources and strategies that will help you create a classroom environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, and emotional regulation.
If you haven’t yet, please sign up now. The SEAL Week Challenge is right around the corner and is free for all!
Here are the resources cited:
*National Institutes of Health