Restrict Screen Time: Dr Aric Sigman comes to school

Yesterday, 12/06/13, Dr Aric Sigman came to our school to talk to pupils, staff and parents about various issues, prompted by some difficulties presented by the partially anonymous social media website ask.fm. Sigman specialises in presenting his published work around the world including school talks for PSHEEC covering alcohol, body image, electronic media (screen time), parenting and more. For our school he had been asked to cover all or most of these in a whistle-stop tour of his research. I warn you there may be inaccuracies in this post but I have omitted areas I felt unsure about. It presents a flavour of the overall presentation.

Dr Sigman at school
Dr Sigman at school

Dr Sigman is an articulate and charismatic speaker and all our audiences enjoyed his presentations and many felt inspired, or at least had their interest piqued, by what he had to say. The over-arching message he left was that, for young people (<19), recreational screen time (gaming, videos, social media) is averagely at 6.1 hours per day and should be limited to 2 hours. The argument is presented with a research evidence-base about the chemicals that are released in our brains from specific activities and that too much passive screen time that does not stimulate good brain development. In fact, it is very possible it is bad for you when your body is going through important growth stages. Among the examples of actual impact that were cited was France banning any television media aimed at <3 year olds; screen time for very young people should be kept to an absolute minimum.

I photographed many of Sigman’s slides but he challenged someone filming him to make sure it was for private use only. His concern was because, if publicly distributed, it may cause a backlash from organisations that want us to be using screens or alcohol more, not less. This made me a little suspicious. If research is robust it can withstand scrutiny and counter-research. Enter Dr Ben Goldacre (props to @simfin for the pointer) who authors badscience.net and was recently invited by the Right Honourable Michael Gove MP to examine how schools might improve the use of evidence to inform practice. Goldacre appears in a Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman and Aric Sigman in 2009 where the latter’s report is challenged because it led to Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, then head of the Royal Institution, making claims that led to the Daily Mail headline: ‘Social websites harm children’s brains‘. The interview is embedded below:

Goldacre grinds his research evidence standards axe regularly. This is partly how he earns his crust, so, take from it what you will.

I was concerned that there was going to be a distorted message being given to my school community. My concern was not unfounded. Sigman clearly enjoyed the fact his work is perceived by many as contentious, and he let the audience know he was being invited by governments and the like to address important people around the world. And that some audiences are more receptive than others because they serve a specific agenda.

I am not in a position to scrutinise the validity of Sigman’s claims, but I wanted to try and make sure that his message was clear. When he says ‘recreational screen time’ maybe people hear ‘screen time’ without the qualifying distinction. I felt obliged to seek clarification in the Q&A sessions. Was he only talking about screen time spent on recreational activities? He was, and added that he only meant passive screen time; Wii games employing physical actions like bowling did not count. It was important to me to make sure that the audience were very clear that screen time for learning does not contribute to this process. Sigman aligned reading a book to stimulating imagination about sensory perception in the mind. This was a complex process deemed healthy for the brain, and, therefore, ‘kindles’ (for which I think yo can substitute ‘reading on any device’ since the introduction of kindle fire). The chemical release can be stimulated from reading on a computer or working on research or an essay. Obviously, there are a lot of grey areas here (some research is watching YouTube etc.) and Sigman stipulated that recreation meant gaming, youtube and social media. He also asked the audience to imagine hunting and similar activities that caused stress hormones and cortisone to be released back in the early days of our development. Our bodies are designed to release these chemicals during physical exertion but playing the adrenaline inducing first-person shoot ’em up will cause the same chemical release whilst the recipient is relatively motionless.

Is this pseudo-science? Well I don’t really know. Sigman substantiated his claims with research. He did not permit his slides to be published but I can publish all the sources I managed to capture. This is the last of what I have to say on the matter other than a couple of Year 9 boys approached me today to let me know their Mum’s had removed their gadgets as soon as they got home. We all have to learn how to manage our screen time. I’m not convinced Dr Sigman has all the facts in his presentation. I hope he has not set fear alight in our parents and teachers. I guess a passionate and urgent message is always a danger with showmanship spotlight research presentations. My feeling is that we need more dispassionate research to unravel this evidence base, similar to that Goldacre has bothered to assemble on his website. Maybe we may see another analysis of Sigman’s work by Goldacre. After all, it seems to be a hobby of his.

Below is a sample of his quotes that I managed to note; many are missing.

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Salivary Cortisol in Relation to the Use of ICT in School-Aged Children. Wallenius (?), M., et al (2010) Psychology, 2010, 1, 88-95. ‘Adolescents rarely describe gaming and surfing in the Internet as stressing activities but, instead, as a way of passing time, getting experiences, and social communication.’

The World Unplugged, (2011) University of Maryland. 1000 students in 10 countries on 5 continents. Study to give up tech for 24 hours. ‘A clear majority in every country failed.’ ‘many students employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression when self-reporting their reactions to going unplugged for 24 hours… many students also reported both mental and physical symptoms of distress.’ ‘they physically craved the actual devices themselves.’

American Journal of Drug Alcohol Abuse (2010) 10.5% change in dopamine release ‘in the caudate after playing a motorbike riding computer game.’ ‘Computer game playing may lead to long-term changes in the reward circuitry that resemble the effects of substance dependence.’

Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder (2011). ‘multiple structural changes’ deep within the brain. ‘several small regions in the brain were smaller, in some cases as much as 10 to 20 percent.’ Surface-level brain matter appears to shrink according to how long you’ve had ‘internet addiction’.

American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2009). Surfing internet – areas of the brain associated with empathy showed virtually NO increase in stimulation. ‘Young people are growing up immersed in this technology and their brains are more malleable, more plastic and changing. As the brain evolves and shifts its focus towards new technological skills, it drifts away from fundamental social skills.’

Mirroring Others’ Emotions Relates to Empathy and Interpersonal Competence in Children. Pfeiffer et al. Neuroimage (2008). ‘stimulated by face-to-face interaction.”stimulation related directly to children’s: level of empathy; social skills.’

Meta-analysis of 72 studies 1979-2009 by University of Michigan, May 2010. ‘College kids today are about 40% lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago’ ‘We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000… 1) The increase in exposure to media during this time… 2) Recent rise in social media.’

Couldn’t see the source of this but here it is anyway, discussing mental health: ‘Children’s Screen Viewing is Related to Psychological Difficulties Irrespective of Physical Activity: ‘Children who spent [more than] 2 hours per day watching television or using a computer were at increased risk of high levels of psychological difficulties and this risk increased if the children also failed to meet physical activity guidelines. … Limiting computer use and television viewing may be important for optimal well-being for young people.’

Facebook Depression, American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) Guidance for the Clinician: The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families: ‘Facebook depression … develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.’

Increase in Loneliness, Children Talking to Childline about Loneliness report by NSPCC (2010): ‘Among boys: 500% increase in calls about loneliness from five years ago.’

Computers in Human Behaviour, Kirschner & Karpinski (2010): ‘Three-quarters of the Facebook users said they didn’t believe spending time on the site affected their academic performance….’ But Facebook users’ grades were 20% lower.

Harvard Medical School (2012) did a systematic review of parental interventions on screen time: 29 studies ‘achieved significant reductions in TV viewing or screen-media use.

 

 

 

 

Restrict Screen Time: Dr Aric Sigman comes to school

Kevin Fear: This is how I work

I am Kevin Fear and this is how I work

Twitter: @kevinfear

Blog: http://head.nottinghamhighblogs.net/

Current job: Headmaster at Nottingham High School

Been a teacher since: September 2000

Location: Nottingham High School

Current mobile device: Ipad and Iphone 5

Current computer: Samsung R580 Laptop

School-issued devices: Ipad and Iphone 5

One word that best describes how you work: Constantly!

How do you manage your calendar/diary?

Make huge use of Microsoft Outlook which synchs with iphone and laptop.  My P.A. manages my diary but I totally rely on an electronic diary.

How do you manage your lesson planning?

As a Head I don’t teach any lessons but in terms of keeping on top of my tasks I make significant use of the  Outlook tasks function.

What’s your best tip for term-time weekends?

I try to block the time to ensure that there is some family time but I also have to attend school sports’ fixtures and help run my son’s local football team.  Inevitably though there is a lot of work to do each weekend.

What do you do during school holidays?

I try to ensure that I get a proper break for at least part of each holiday.  Going away soon after term ends in the summer ensures this and helps to recharge the batteries. I do though have to use some of the holiday to work in but try to plan for the days I am going to do this around what my family are up to.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Couldn’t live without Microsoft Outlook. In terms of apps use iMLite for tasks or TaskTask, Tweetdeck for Twitter, Times newspaper app, Spotify.

What offline tools can’t you live without?

A fountain pen, my briefcase and various folders which I sort my work into.

What’s your main workspace like?

I try to keep it as clean of paper as I possibly can, the tidier it is the more effective my work is.  Both my desk at home and at school I try only to have what I am actually working on at the time on the desk, I don’t always succeed in this!

What do you listen to while you work?

At school no music at all.  At home I do make use of Spotify but if I need to concentrate hard then I have no music on at all.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

I try each Sunday afternoon to get my email inbox down to zero.  I will create tasks of anything that needs to be done and then delete the email.  I receive about 500 emails a week so ensuring that they are all dealt with or made into tasks ensures that I can see the wood from the trees.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Outlook tasks on the PC or iMLite on the ipad.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Sat Nav in car for when I am out and about.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Nothing, I am always learning positive things from others.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Try to get to bed at the same time pretty much every day and always fall asleep very quickly. Tend though to be early to bed and early to rise as I am more of a morning person.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Unusually as a Head I feel that I am more of an introvert.  However, I have a strong belief that to be an effective head you need to develop the best in other people and the role is never about your own self-glory so this has never been a problem.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

As a Head always be yourself.  Don’t put on any false pretences and your own integrity will shine through.

I would like to I’d like to see @josepicardo answer these same questions.

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Many thanks to Kevin for agreeing to post here. Other This Is How I Work posts are available here.

Kevin Fear: This is how I work

Old Andrew: This is how I work

I am oldandrew and this is how I work

http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com

Current job: Teacher

Location: England

Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy Ace 2

Current computer: Samsung Chromebook

School-issued devices: I have a small laptop that takes 20 minutes to start up. It’s in a cupboard somewhere.

One word that best describes how you work: Continually.

How do you manage your calendar/diary?

By not having any kind of social life.

How do you manage your lesson planning?

I get to work early, plan the day’s work and save it on a PC so I can reuse it.

How do you manage your marking?

Badly. Usually by doing just a few books at a time. Switching pen colours to keep track of which books I’ve marked and which I haven’t. Occasionally I use  “conferencing” i.e. marking work in front of a student in the lesson.

What’s your best tip for term-time weekends?

Try not to take any work home. Try to get as much sleep as possible. Both bits of advice which I consistently fail to follow.

What do you do during school holidays?

Blog.

Visit friends.

Read.

Orange Wednesdays.

And, ideally, a pub quiz once a week.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Twitter.

WordPress.

What offline tools can’t you live without?

A boardmarker.

What’s your main workspace like?

A mess. I don’t like to throw anything away, just in case.

What do you listen to while you work?

Johnny Cash. And this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1Z0H8CHPIU

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Not sleeping.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Waiting for somebody to remind me.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Kindle HD.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Keeping a record of what I taught and retrieving it.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I’m meant to have a routine?

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Introvert. I identify with almost everything in this: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

Particularly, the stuff about groupwork being torture.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

From my mentor on my first PGCE placement: The two worst words in teaching are “group -work”. A colleague in my NQT year also told me (of SMT): They use your professionalism against you.

I would like to I’d like to see Tom Bennett answer these same questions.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for having me.

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Many thanks to Old Andrew for agreeing to post here. Other This is how I work posts are available here.

Old Andrew: This is how I work

David Didau: This is how I work

I am David Didau and this is how I work

@LearningSpy

learningspy.co.uk

Current job: Currently Director of English & Literacy at Clevedon School but am about to start with Academies Enterprise Trust in September

Been a teacher since: 2000

Location: North Somerset, but soon to be in Birmingham

Current mobile device: iPhone

Current computer: Macbook Pro (we have an almost obsessive relationship)

School-issued devices: iPad (used mainly by my children!)

One word that best describes how you work: Unpredictably.

How do you manage your calendar/diary?

Badly. If I had a PA I could rule the world!

 How do you manage your lesson planning?

I plan a lot of lessons in my head. I keep my medium term planning up to date and aim to focus each lesson on one particular student’s needs. I tell them that they’re my student of the day and that this is lesson is especially for them. Can be very powerful. Here’s a more extended discussion of my ideas on planning: http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/11/17/2-minute-lesson-plan/

 How do you manage your marking?

Marking IS planning. I’m constantly marking – it’s (perhaps) the most important thing I do. Here on my thoughts on marking: http://learningspy.co.uk/2013/01/26/work-scrutiny-whats-the-point-of-marking-books/

 What’s your best tip for term-time weekends?

Don’t get too drunk. And never, ever, go out with Lisa Jane Ashes! Or Phil Beadle. I have, on 2 occasions, made the mistake of going out with both of them. This is absolutely to be avoided.

 What do you do during school holidays?

Read. A lot.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Twitter

What offline tools can’t you live without?

Red pen. It has to be red. I can’t bear all this nonsense about green pens being better for self esteem.

What’s your main workspace like?

It’s a metaphor for my brain. Nuff said.

What do you listen to while you work?

My inner demons.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Making sure that what I do is low effort, high impact.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

My wife.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Espresso machine? Nah, I’m not really that gadgety. I thought I’d love my kindle but I’ve lost the charger.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

I have the voice of an angel. Plus, I‘ve never met anyone who is able to mark a set of books more quickly.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Haphazard

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Hmm. I can be both. I’m very self-sufficient and spend a lot of time in my own company. But when I’m with people I find it hard to keep my gob shut!

I would like to I’d like to see Andrew Old answer these same questions. But he won’t, so I’d settle for Daisy Christodoulou.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Insanity is repeating the same mistakes expecting different results.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Blogging and Twitter is the best thing to ever happen to my teaching – I have grown so much over the past two years, and I’m not just referring to my waistline.

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Many thanks to David for agreeing to post here. Other *This is how I work* posts are available here.

David Didau: This is how I work

David James (@EducationFest): This is how I work

I am David James and this is how I work

 

David James
David James

@EducationFest;

http://festivalofeducation2013.org.uk/category/directors-blog/

Current job: I have a few: Director of IB at Wellington College, Senior MYP School Consultant for the IB and also Director of the Sunday Times Festival of Education. Oh, and teacher of English.

Been a teacher since: 1995

Location: Wellington College

Current mobile device: iPad, iPhone 5, Blackberry, Nexus 7

Current computer: iMac, Toshiba laptop

School-issued devices: Toshiba laptop

One word that best describes how you work: Connectively

How do you manage your calendar/diary?

I prefer to manage it myself, although other people have access to my calendar and can make appointments; I find it saves time to control it myself using Outlook and Google Calendar.

How do you manage your lesson planning?

I try to get these sorted on the Sunday before the teaching week, but many of my best lessons have been composed ‘on the run’ in response to something that has just happened in the news, or on Twitter, on in a magazine I’ve just read.

How do you manage your marking?

Not as well as I should.  It should get easier, but it gets harder.  One thing that has made a difference is Google Docs: it means I can make interventions as the students are writing, and feedback to them quickly so that changes before bad habits become entrenched.

What’s your best tip for term-time weekends?

Take Saturday off if you can (although in my school we teach Saturday morning). Read.  Walk. Cook.  Watch football.  Mark and prepare lessons Sunday morning and finish work by 7pm.

What do you do during school holidays?

For the last few years I’ve been writing: two new editions of Shakespeare’s plays are due out next year and I’m contracted to write a book on the IB.   I travel, read, meet up with friends. Be with my family. The usual stuff.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Google tools dominate my work: Drive, Docs, Chrome, G+.  Because I have so many email addresses I increasingly use Apple’s Mail which brings them all together beautifully: Gmail on Mail is much cleaner and easier to use.  Outlook for planning my Calendar.  I use Twitterific on iPhone, iPad and OSX. Other apps would include Kindle on all devices, Spotify, Facebook and Dropbox.

What offline tools can’t you live without?

I’ve heard there is life offline but I haven’t seen it for a long time. But I still buy books and lots of magazines and newspapers.

What’s your main workspace like?

My office is usually neat and tidy: school PC, phone,  every broadsheet to pick up anything relating to education that day.  It  overlooks a quad in Wellington with a water feature outside, so is rather nice. Home office is surrounded by books and dominated by my iMac and various mobile devices.

What do you listen to while you work?

I subscribe to Spotify Premium, and so I make use of their Apps.  Usually a combination of jazz, chillout, classical…nothing massively distracting.  And I use iTunes of course. I make use of both Spotify’s and iTunes’s radio which introduces me to most new music.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Give things that urgently need doing to busy but efficient people.  Trust others to get things done.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Reminders or Wunderlist.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

iPad and Nexus 7.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

I wouldn’t have the temerity to say.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I don’t tend to get enough of it, but after having three children and being a teacher you tend to get used to be constantly tired.  If I’m not tired I feel guilty for not being so.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Depends on the company.  Probably the latter.

Who would you like to see answer these questions?

I would like to I’d like to see Carl Hendrick and Tom Sherrington answer these same questions.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

By my mentor, Dave Clifford, in a tough comprehensive: he told me to be firmer, less tolerant, more impatient with those who weren’t trying.  He also told me to enjoy teaching more, and to see it as often surreal and great fun.  He had maximum respect from his students.  He was intolerant of lack of effort but hugely patient with those who were trying their hardest.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A blatant plug: if you’re interested in education why not come along to the next Education Festival? June 21 and 22.

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Many thanks to David for agreeing to post here. Other This is how I work posts are available here.

David James (@EducationFest): This is how I work