Screens should only be used for training if they are the best tool.

Jean-Benoit Legault, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Screens should only be used in education when they are the best tool for teaching a subject, says the lead author of the very first international report on the fight against sedentary behavior in children and youth in school.

Their use must be justified and serve a pedagogical purpose, improving learning compared to other methods, it is explained, and they must stimulate mental or physical activity, and not be used for educational purposes, passive learning.

“We already know that students who spend less time in a sedentary lifestyle, and therefore have better physical and mental health in general, do better in school than students who are all the time sedentary, in particular students who spend a lot of time. in front of screens,” said Professor Travis Saunders of the University of Prince Edward Island.

Entitled “International Guidelines on Sedentary Behavior in School for Children and Youth”, the report warns that sedentary lifestyles among youth, already at alarming levels, have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic by health restrictions that have deprived them of physical possibilities. and sports events.

On the other hand, sedentary activities, that is, waking hours devoted to activities in a sitting or lying position and therefore consuming very little energy, have become more and more space-consuming.

If the World Health Organization and countries like Canada had already developed recommendations for reducing the adverse health effects of physical inactivity, this report would be the first to provide evidence-based recommendations related to physical inactivity in school settings. (in class and during homework). ).

Screens can sometimes be good teaching tools, acknowledged Professor Saunders, who notes that two-thirds of the time spent in school is sedentary and can be helpful when working in groups, but “these recommendations will help (teachers) use these tools in a way that is beneficial to their students and minimize harm.”

The paper very specifically recommends favoring face-to-face communication over the use of screens, and avoiding screens as the “default” method by which content is delivered to young people or in which class.

“If there is a screen in the classroom, it should be used because it is the best tool for teaching students, not just for entertaining them,” Saunders said. We know there will be screens in the classroom, but we also know that Canadian students are already spending a lot of time in front of screens. So, if we use a screen in school, it should be used for education, not just entertainment.

The report recommends limiting device usage time, especially for students aged 5 to 11. Media multitasking is also discouraged in the classroom and when doing homework. It is also recommended to avoid homework on the screen an hour before bedtime.

It is also assumed that periods of free or directed physical activity alternate with sedentary periods at school. The authors of the report suggest a period of physical activity at least every 30 minutes for children aged 5-11 and at least once an hour for children aged 12-18.

Limit homework

The report contains information and advice for students, teachers and school administration; politicians; parents, guardians; medical staff; as well as physicians and others working in the healthcare system to promote the health and well-being of students, the statement said.

In terms of homework, the researchers recommend ten minutes of homework each evening during the school year (ten minutes of homework in freshman year, sixty in sixth year) to free up time for young people to devote to physical activity.

And even if it is probably utopian to think that young people will use all this free time for sports, “if they have too much homework, they don’t even have the opportunity to do something else,” M. Saunders emphasized.

The report was produced by the Sedentary Behavior Research Network in collaboration with the University of Prince Edward Island and the Children’s Hospital of the Eastern Ontario Research Institute.

In the Internet:

International recommendations for sedentary behavior in school