The mixed response to Concord Academy’s decision to go fully remote for the fall semester showcases the concerns that many people in the community had about not being able to fully engage while online. One concern that was not considered, however, was the amount of time that students would spend on their screens.
In the new STAC schedule, most students currently take three or four classes. Each class meets three times a week for seventy-minute blocks and one time a week for a forty-five minute block. If a student is taking three classes in a STAC, this amounts to thirteen hours per week on Zoom alone. Adding in the hours of homework that they receive every night, many students end up with approximately twenty-seven hours of school-related screen time Monday through Friday.
Because CA students now spend so much time on their screens, they take in much higher amounts of blue light than usual, which suppresses the production of the critical sleep hormone, melatonin. Therefore, students must sacrifice the quality of their sleep to focus and participate in class.
In a world in which everything is online, taking breaks is more important than ever. Something that I have found helpful was purchasing blue light glasses, which filter out excessive blue light and enable me to sleep well. I have also found that walking around the block or doing jumping jacks in between classes helps me stay comfortable and focused.
There are also ways to reduce how much time we spend looking at screens. Those who own a printer can print out PDFs of assigned homework readings. Reducing screen time, however, should not be just the students’ responsibility. Many report that even after a full day of virtual classes, they spend even more time online completing their homework. Teachers should take into account the excessive amount of time we already spend in front of screens all day and adjust the amount of online homework accordingly.
I have heard varying opinions about screen time in the new STAC schedule, but the overwhelming majority of students have expressed that it is excessive, negatively impacting their sleep schedule and engagement in class. Some of us have figured out strategies to minimize our blue light exposure, but that responsibility should not fall only on our shoulders. Managing screen time has been a difficult task for a long time, but in our increasingly virtual world, we must try to limit the amount of time we are online while remaining connected.