Jesuit Chronicle

Opinion: Too much screen time hinders mental health and students’ ability to learn

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A girl stares at her screen in the dark, straining her eyes as she types.

From 8 a.m. to roughly 3 p.m.—almost 7 hours—students stare mindlessly at a screen while teachers attempt desperately to connect with them through bluelight pixels, instructing and making jokes in hopes of distracting kids from the mundanity of learning from home.

For the first few weeks of school, I listened to students give feedback to teachers on how they were faring during digital learning. The responses were not varied; most students confided that their eyes and heads hurt after looking at their iPad all day.

Even teachers were struggling to adjust. One of my own teachers shared that she began having migraines during class, and was requested by her doctor not to look at screens in a dark room, which causes her to strain her eyes.

A recent poll on jesuitnews.com.com showed that in a group of 132 people, 39 percent of voters spend between eight and 10 hours a day looking at a screen, including their phone. Even more shocking, 33 percent of voters spend more than 10 hours a day on a screen. Twenty percent of voters spend between five and seven hours onscreen, and only eight percent spend two to four hours onscreen.

According to May Recreation, too much screen time can have adverse effects on students’ academic performance.

“Too much screen time can impair brain structure and function,” the May Recreation team said. “Because children’s brains undergo so much change during their formative years, this excess screen time can be even more damaging. Academic success, social skills, even career success can all be negatively affected by excessive screen time.”

Additionally, Harvard University said “the growing human brain is constantly building neural connections while pruning away less-used ones, and digital media use plays an active role in that process. Much of what happens on screen provides “impoverished” stimulation of the developing brain compared to reality. Children need a diverse menu of online and offline experiences, including the chance to let their minds wander.”

Last school year, I wrote an article about living a week without using my phone. In the article, there was a brief overview of each day. The days shared a similar theme: I had more time to do other things because of decreased phone use.

Cutting down the time one spends on their phone will benefit academic performance, as well as better sleep and less mood swings, to which teenagers are already prone. However, even if one were to give up their phone entirely, there is still the obvious question of how to cut down on screen use when it is required for school.

School screen time, whether it be for actual classes or just for homework, is approaching eight hours. Half of my teachers are now going asynchronous on Mondays, and Tuesday through Friday, many of my teachers are not filling up the entire 80-minute class period, as they recognize most students are unable to focus for that long. For teachers that like to fill the almost-hour-and-a-half of class, it is still quite a bit of screen time for teens.

Advocating for more asynchronous classes is one option, though kids lose time to connect with classmates, and they will still need to complete the required classwork online.

Taking into account Harvard University’s research that students need a “diverse menu of online and offline experiences,” one idea would be to listen to a recording of the teacher’s voice with a few activities for them to complete.

In certain classes, such as environmental science, english, and art electives, a screen is not typically needed for activities.

For classes that would need a screen for research and further learning, such as history, core science, and math classes, short, 15-minute activities could be intermixed with 10-minute breaks, so students can rest their eyes, reducing their chance of contracting migraines.

There are ways in which teachers can adjust their curriculum to fit the needs of their students. There are also ways students can advocate for less screen time, as most teachers are open to suggestions and care about their students’ health.

About the Writer
Photo of Steele Clevenger
Steele Clevenger, Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director

Sarcastic. Artistic. Enthusiastic. These are three words Steele Clevenger would use to describe herself. A senior at Jesuit High School and a veteran journalism...

Administrators update parents on COVID-19

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Parents were invited to attend an online webinar, during which Jesuit Principal Paul Hogan and President Tom Arndorfer discussed updates on the coronavirus pandemic, and how it affects the Jesuit High School community.

Hogan and Arndorfer began with a prayer for veterans, thanking them for their service. Following the prayer, Hogan and Arndorfer discussed the school’s plans regarding the coronavirus.

Arndorfer said he wishes that students were back on campus, as he feels that the social, academic, and emotional aspects Jesuit provides are best served in person. However, he said that the school will continue to make appropriate accommodations for those who wish to stay home or come to campus for extracurriculars.

For students to return to school, two measures, put in place by Oregon Governor Kate Brown, must be met. The first measure states that in Washington County there must only be 50 or less new COVID cases per day per 100,000 people in a two week period for students to return to school. Currently, that number is 190 new COVID cases per day per 100,000 people.

The second measure is the test positivity rate. Currently, in Washington County, the test positivity rate is 10.2 percent more than twice as high as the necessary percentage to return to school, which is five percent over a 14-day period.

According to Arndorfer, students and most teachers will be staying at home through semester one. Hogan reminded parents to keep their teens at home to protect those with underlying conditions.

Hogan and Arndorfer encouraged parents to ask questions during the webinar. One parent asked if there were any creative ways to bring the students back to campus.

Hogan said that although students will need to stay home for the next few weeks by order of the Governor, he says he hopes to move into a hybrid schedule later in the school year. As part of a hybrid schedule, half of the student body would attend school in person on certain days, and the other portion of the student body would attend school alternate days.

One parent asked: what is the administration planning for the senior class? The administration plans to offer the PSAT, ACT, and SAT tests for current juniors in semester two. Additionally, Hogan announced that seniors were working with Jesuit’s college advisors, and that those advisors would reach out to juniors beginning January 2021.

Semester exams, which are usually given in the final week of each semester, will occur during regular 80-minute class meetings. Teachers have been encouraged to develop a range of cumulative semester assessments that students can take remotely.

If students were to come back to campus, one parent asked, what would lunchtime look like? Hogan says that because students will need to remove their masks to eat, they may be spread out into large areas, such as Gedrose Center, and locations outside.

“We hope to face the problem of finding places for students to eat, as that would mean our students are back on campus where they belong,” Hogan said.

Regarding the Food Drive, the annual holiday event where the Jesuit community collects food for underprivileged families, faculty, staff, and students plan to meet on December 7 to drop off food. This will be one of a few drop-off dates, as the number of people on campus will be limited. The alumni food drive will also proceed this year, though food drop-off dates are still pending.

Sports are still taking place on the Jesuit campus, though Hogan and Arndorfer both believe academics are a higher priority. They hope that events, including sports, will take place in large-open spaces off campus or through a virtual setting.

To be on campus, students have their temperatures taken upon arrival to ensure that they are not sick. A new piece of technology called Capscann will assess the health of each student, evaluating any symptoms they may have, replacing the thermometer that is placed in front of a person’s forehead to gauge their temperature.

Sports allow for students to connect with one another without looking at a screen, but parents are still hoping to have their children back on campus. Some parents are signing a petition to bring kids back to school. They plan to send the petition to Governor Kate Brown. Hogan and Arndorfer encouraged parents to continue to try to influence politics, contact representatives, and let their voices be heard.

The two administrators recognize that keeping students out of school affects their mental health, and advocate for bringing students back to school as soon as it is safe. Administrators will continue to send out surveys to parents regarding concerns they have about school policies and what they would like to see in the coming months.

Both Hogan and Arndorfer stressed throughout their presentation the importance of following Centers for Disease Control and a Prevention guidelines, spending time connecting with those around them, and giving thanks for the teachers, faculty, and staff of Jesuit for their hard work during these difficult times.

For more information on COVID metrics, visit https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Pages/COVID19.aspx.

 

About the Writer
Photo of Steele Clevenger
Steele Clevenger, Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director

Sarcastic. Artistic. Enthusiastic. These are three words Steele Clevenger would use to describe herself. A senior at Jesuit High School and a veteran journalism...

Mental health challenges among students during quarantine

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Steele Clevenger

Charlie Crusader says hello to his geese friends over Zoom.

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Mental health decreases amongst high school students during quarantine

By Steele Clevenger


Editor and Creative DIrector

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has hindered people—with no exception for age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, or location in the world—from day to day interaction with one another. For students at Jesuit High School, they are spending some of the most formative years of their lives cooped up in their homes, missing out on the social connection required for the mental well-being of teenagers.

“Kids are struggling a lot more not being able to hang out with their friends, not being able to be on campus, not being able to go outside the house. It didn’t have as much to do with school. It more so had to do with the social aspect [of their day],” said Jesuit High School counselor Jason Barry.

Additionally, Barry noticed that social distancing is difficult, since teens are at an emotionally-driven stage in their lives.

Said Barry, “Teenagers struggle with [social distancing] because their first instinct is to hug and to touch. Look how many kids are shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, in the hallways or at Mass. They want physical contact with their friends. When you put five kids next to each other and tell them “don’t touch,” it’s hard.”

Teenagers aren’t the only ones having a hard time adjusting to the all-virtual school setting. For health teacher and Mental Health Awareness Club moderator Liz Kaempf, “For the first week, I went into school because I thought it would make the kids feel more like they were at school, but it just made me sad because I missed the students.”

Kaempf pointed out that while it is difficult for her to have relationships with the students, it is even more difficult for the students to have relationships with one another.

“The hardest part is not being able to interact in person with students and with colleagues. The kids give me energy, but I miss that face-to-face interaction with them because they get me excited for the day. Now, trying to develop relationships with students that you are just meeting for the first time on a screen is super hard,” said Kaempf.

Amidst the decrease in mental health, one Jesuit student not only noticed the disconnection and loneliness the Jesuit community is facing, but created a solution to ease those feelings.

Junior Jenny Duan, leader and creator of Jesuit’s Mental Health Awareness Club, recognized anxiety and stress amongst her peers, and has come up with effective ways to correspond with club members and focus on improving their mental well-being.

Duan said, “We try to facilitate conversations in our club and through social media. The other part of our club is focused on self-care. We play games together, we do short meditations, and we provide ideas for practicing self-care at home.”

What are some ways students can improve their mental health right now? Duan suggests focusing on what is most meaningful.

“Take a larger outlook on things. It’s easy to focus on a test or something, but we need to remember there’s more to life than that,” said Duan.

Kaempf encourages students to set a schedule.“Establish some type of normalcy in your day. Get outside, even if you just sit outside. Reach out to people. I challenged some of my students to text some of their friends and meet for a Zoom lunch,” said Kaempf.

Both Barry and Kaempf suggest ways to physically distance safely. They propose teenagers get outside and meet up with friends while wearing masks and remaining six feet apart.

“We want kids to be interacting. We had a lot of kids playing video games where you put on a headset and talk to your friends.” Barry said. “Some kids talk back and forth through social media—anything that we can encourage kids to do in a safe social distancing manner.”

About the Contributor
Photo of Steele Clevenger
Steele Clevenger, Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director

Sarcastic. Artistic. Enthusiastic. These are three words Steele Clevenger would use to describe herself. A senior at Jesuit High School and a veteran journalism...

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