We Need a Radical New Way to Understand Screen Use

WIRED | 1/25/2019 | Robbie Gonzalez
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To anyone reading this on a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop (so, you know, basically all of you): We need to talk about how we talk about screen use.

For too long the conversation’s been stuck on how much time we spend on our devices, and the effect that time has on our well-being. The more salient question for a society in which people’s lives increasingly revolve around screens is how we spend that time. But to answer that question, we need better data.

First - Point - Time - Quality - Quantity

First off, I know what you’re thinking: The point that screen time is about quality, not quantity, sounds stupidly obvious. And you’re right. It is stupidly obvious. And yet! It’s a point many people, a lot of them smart and well intentioned, have nevertheless overlooked or brushed aside these past few years in the face of mounting public concern that we are all hopelessly, problematically, or involuntarily attached—addicted, even—to our digital devices. In social science research today, it doesn’t matter if a survey respondent uses YouTube to practice conjugating irregular Spanish verbs or to binge on politically extremist rants. It all gets lumped under the unhelpfully broad umbrella of “screen time.”

The trouble is, a whole motherloving lot of that public concern has been driven by lackluster, and often contradictory, scientific results. Earlier this month, researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute published a study in the journal Nature Human Behavior that plainly illustrates how that happened: The gigantic surveys underlying many tech-use studies can be interpreted in such a variety of ways that two different researchers looking at the exact same data set can—and have!—reached opposite conclusions about the association between screen time and well-being.

Associations - Way - Claims - Devices - Screen

And those associations? They’re tiny. Way too tiny to warrant the claims you’ve read that we’re all addicted to our devices, that excessive screen time...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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