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Are Screens Running Your Life?

If you find it hard to put down your digital devices, you’re not alone.

At school, 11-year-old Oscar Korson takes tests and turns in assignments on a Chromebook. When he gets home, the sixth-grader watches basketball highlights on his iPad. After he finishes his homework, Oscar plays on his Xbox or watches Netflix with his family.

“I can’t imagine life without screens,” he says.

Oscar says he spends about five hours on screens each weekday and about seven hours a day on weekends.

Those numbers may not surprise you. Kids ages 8 to 12 use screens for six hours a day on average. Many experts, parents, and teachers think that’s excessive. They worry that screens are taking over kids’ lives. Just how much screen time is really too much?

At school, 11-year-old Oscar Korson takes tests on a Chromebook. He turns in assignments on it too. When he gets home, the sixth-grader watches basketball highlights on his iPad. After he finishes his homework, Oscar plays on his Xbox or watches Netflix with his family.

“I can’t imagine life without screens,” he says.

Oscar says he spends about five hours on screens each weekday. He spends about seven hours a day on weekends.

Those numbers may not surprise you. Kids ages 8 to 12 use screens for six hours a day on average. Many experts, parents, and teachers think that’s excessive. They worry that screens are taking over kids’ lives. Just how much screen time is really too much?

Connecting Us

There’s no escaping screens. Most of us probably wouldn’t want to anyway. It’s fun to play video games and laugh at cat memes. And we use apps to order food or get directions.  

But mostly, screens have the power to connect people. They allow us to instantly talk to a friend across town—or to a relative on the other side of the world.

There’s no escaping screens. Most of us probably wouldn’t want to anyway. It’s fun to play video games and laugh at cat memes. And we use apps to order food or get directions.

But mostly, screens have the power to connect people. They allow us to instantly talk to a friend across town. Or we can talk to a relative on the other side of the world.

1 in 4 kids say they watch online videos every day.

Source: Common Sense Media

It Adds Up

Screen time can go from good to bad quickly, though. Let’s say you’re doing online research for a school project. While you’re working, your friend shares a YouTube video with you. You watch it, then share it. The next thing you know, another friend texts you with a different video. You try to get back to your work. But wait—where did you leave off?

“You can’t get into anything very deeply if you’re studying in three- to five-minute bursts,” says Larry Rosen. He studies the effects of screens on kids.

Some studies have shown a link between heavy screen use and lower test scores. Too much screen time can also affect your health. More screen time means less time exercising. Plus, scientists have found that the light from screens can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Screen time can go from good to bad quickly, though. Let’s say you’re doing online research for a school project. While you’re working, your friend shares a YouTube video with you. You watch it. Then you share it. Then another friend texts you with a different video. You try to get back to your work. But where did you leave off?

“You can’t get into anything very deeply if you’re studying in three- to five-minute bursts,” says Larry Rosen. He studies the effects of screens on kids.

Some studies have shown a link between heavy screen use and lower test scores. Too much screen time can also affect your health. More screen time means less time exercising. Plus, scientists have found that the light from screens can make it difficult to fall asleep. 

Finding a Balance

So what’s the right amount of daily screen time? There’s no easy answer. Some experts say two hours per day is enough. Others suggest spending no more than one-third of your free time on screens.

But Rosen and others say moderation is the best strategy. It’s OK to use screens as long as you balance screen time with time spent doing other things.

Take Oscar, for example. He plays the drums and basketball. He puts away his iPad while doing his homework. Oscar also makes sure to spend time with friends and family in real life. Still, he sometimes needs to be reminded to power down.

“If I’m in the screen zone, I just want to keep clicking,” he says.

That’s when his parents tell him to take a screen break.

“I’m not saying I like it,” Oscar explains. “But I know they’re right.”

So what’s the right amount of daily screen time? There’s no easy answer. Some experts say two hours per day is enough. Others suggest spending no more than one-third of your free time on screens.

But Rosen and others say moderation is the best strategy. It’s OK to use screens. You just need to balance screen time with time spent doing other things.

Take Oscar, for example. He plays the drums and basketball. He puts away his iPad while doing his homework. Oscar also makes sure to spend time with friends and family in real life. Still, he sometimes needs to be reminded to power down.

“If I’m in the screen zone, I just want to keep clicking,” he says.

That’s when his parents tell him to take a screen break.

“I’m not saying I like it,” Oscar explains. “But I know they’re right.”

1. What is the purpose of the section “Connecting Us”?

2. What are some of the negative effects of screen use?

3. What is moderation? How does Oscar Korson use screens in moderation?

4. How does the sidebar “Be Your Own Screen Boss” relate to the article?

1. What is the purpose of the section “Connecting Us”?

2. What are some of the negative effects of screen use?

3. What is moderation? How does Oscar Korson use screens in moderation?

4. How does the sidebar “Be Your Own Screen Boss” relate to the article?

Close-Reading Questions

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