When I have children or teenagers presenting for psychoeducational assessments to diagnose for Specific Learning Difficulties, often one of the concerns is attention and concentration difficulties in combination with general complaints of tiredness or irritability.
Prior to the educational assessment taking place, I will gather relevant information from the parents and the child/teenager including how much screen time they engage with during the day. I often discover that not only is the child required to use technology within the school setting depending on their year level but they will also often use technology as their main leisure activity at the end of the day; they usually watch television, play computer games, or view a series of YouTube videos.
There are a number of advantages that technology brings for academic learning, such as providing children alternatives ways to learn. Children who have learning difficulties with either maths or English can choose from a variety of interactive computer software programs which could assist in making learning a fun experience instead of a challenge. Similarly, when the educational assessment highlights that a child has poor writing ability, they may be assisted by writing their assignments on a computer or laptop device.
Given the good technology brings, we shouldn’t ignore that it also has some negative impacts on a child’s academic and general mental health. Firstly, there is much research regarding the amount of screen time and its negative effect on concentration and attention levels. I often have parents tell me that their child has more than eight hours sleep a night but still wakes up tired with poor attention and concentration issues at school. This may be as a consequence of overstimulation from technology during the day. More specifically, though they may be having enough quantity of sleep, the quality of sleep is being negatively affected.
When I have suggested to parents that the child cease their screen use approximately two hours before bedtime, parents have commented that a significant positive change in behavior often occurs. Such changes include increased alertness and concentration and a decrease in irritability within the home setting. In my opinion, as a part of a psychoeducational assessment, the psychologist should know how much screen-time and exposure the child has when understanding the child’s academic and mental health and wellbeing.