Experts warn against overuse of tablets

Experts warn against overuse of tablets

Tablet devices are gradually replacing textbooks in schools.

Hyderabad: Tablet devices are gradually replacing textbooks in schools. Combining technology and education is commendable but experts are against its use. Surveys, too, say that the use of tablets could has a detrimental effect on health as well as cognitive abilities of children. According to Reboot Foundation survey, the use of tablets has resulted in lower test scores for fourth graders.

D V N Murthy, Secretary (Technical Education), says the decision on use of tablets in schools is left to the boards of management of individual schools. "Where the introduction of new technology is planned, consultation with members of the school community including parents is advised. Internet surfing in budding age is dangerous and unsafe until unless it is monitored," he said.

While there are no official figures on how many schools are using devices, one of the largest firms supplying tablets to schools manages to sell 650 to 750 devices to each school every year. It says schools use a combination of tablets only, or tablets alongside printed textbooks. "In our experience, many of our schools opt to provide printed textbooks alongside tablets. Around 40,000 devices are sold in Hyderabad every year," said an official of Byjus.

"Technology integration is not just a matter of acquiring hardware; it's about changing classroom practices and developing a clear plan for teaching and adopting new technology and new practices which will improve learning," said Murali Krishna, the psychiatrist at Gandhi Hospital.

Emission of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation from the tablets has been found to impair brain activity and child development, and has been linked to behavioral changes, autism, asthma, childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder and more if a lot of time spent on screen.

Dr Shipa, a clinical psychologist, says overuse of tablets affects the neuron plasticity of the children and adversely affects their IQ levels. Distraction from social life could be observed and chances of intolerance among children using tablets are uncontrollable and they lack patience.

Niranjan Reddy, another clinical psychologist, observed that even employees of tech companies are restricting their children's screen time as it is found that students learn better from books than screens. However, many of the respondents argued that technology is here to stay, and schools should be preparing students for the real world.

Madhu Latha, a teacher from Master Minds Children Career School, said, "There is a need to move beyond just the content knowledge in books and that skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving could not be taught from textbooks."

"Parents need to see there's a plan to improve learning outcomes, not simply replace books with devices and redefine how children learn and that need to be understood by parents." said Ramesh, in-charge, Sri Chaithanya School, Madhura Nagar. Swapna, a mother of two kids from Motinagar, says, "I know they're seen as trendy and the way forward, but the children are spending too much time on screen," she says.

"All tablet computers in the market, even e-readers such as Kindle and Nook use Radio Frequency (RF) signals such as Wi-Fi which enables them to connect to the Internet. This means that you are now being hit from two radiating sources. Two sources that present health dangers that you need to be concerned about when the tablet is close to the body," cautions G S Das, Commissioner of Technical Education.

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