What’s the situation like?
According to the 2018 Healthy Active Kids South Africa (HAKSA) report from the University of Cape Town’s Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) South African children are spending more than three hours per day looking at screens – excluding for school work.
“Smartphones and tablets have become electronic babysitters at home too, keeping your child happily glued to a screen – and out of trouble – while you get on with the million things you have to get done.”
There is no evidence to suggest that screen time use is declining, and it may in fact be increasing, as smart phones become more accessible and affordable. Children were found to spend an average of just over 3 hours on screens per day (not including school work), with only a third of children meeting the screen time recommendation for their age. In another study with adolescents, screen-based social networking was linked to increased risky behaviours. Since recreational screen time use is not decreasing. (Healthy Active Kids South Africa (HAKSA) Report Card, 2018)
This is great, right? Well it depends how we look at it. If we can’t take advantage of it then it’s a problem.
The report also adds that;
“There are some indicators that we don’t have a firm handle on, such as the amount of time spent on screens, and the advertising of snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages and fast foods on social media. With an increase in accessibility to electronic media, and the rise in social media engagement by children and adolescents in South Africa, along with the global shift to digital forms of marketing, it becomes increasingly important to track what children and adolescents are being exposed to, and how it might impact on their health behaviour.”
It’s a problem if children continue to be exposed to advertising of snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages and fast foods. However, if the department of education can manage to sneak themselves in the 3 hours children spend on screens, then that would be a good thing.
Keeping children safe and educated will require more than just the norm. The world of internet and smartphones is increasingly growing and the department of education needs to realise this, with the chance of improving the education of young learners.
My recommendation is simple
The department needs to deploy a team that will seek to find ways that can help them take advantage of the technology that lies in front of children.
Mduduzi Mbiza is a writer, content strategist, researcher, consultant, speaker and author of the book, ‘Human Education: The Voyage of Discovery’. He has contributed his articles on education to Daily Maverick, The South African, Voice360 and EduOne.