Ever since school started, my Chromebook has almost become an extension of my body.

I am using it all the time: class, homework, after-school programs, college applications, music, reading and movies. Whether you’re a student, working professional, or a retired senior, your encounter with technology has taken a new turn during the quarantine.

We live in a digital world.

It used to be a metaphor for our technologically developed society. Today, it is the reality we live in. Having been home since mid-March, my technological device has been my source of connection to the world. Now, I can’t imagine what I would do or how I would even go to school without an internet connection. Our digital dependency has exponentially increased.

But how does that affect us?

First and foremost, greater screen time likely means eye strains, headaches and exhaustion. As I type away on my keyboard, the light overhead just seems to be triggering a headache after a day on the screen. If my laptop was a person, it would be the most overworked laborer.

What used to be a sinful amount of screen time has now become a norm. A day with the screen means less opportunity to exercise, which can create physical discomfort, agitation, fatigue and decrease one’s ability to focus.

After surveying several high school freshmen across NYC who are enrolled in remote learning, there is a general consensus that a virtual mode of learning has created limited opportunities for students to interact with other students. “I still feel like a stranger,” said one student. As a newcomer to a new environment, albeit a virtual one, there is pressure to build a friend group or network, but a remote environment makes it nearly impossible to do that.

As a student who attends quite a homogenous high school, I genuinely hope there could be more cross-group interactions. Students tend to subdivide themselves as a ESL student (English Language Learner) and non-ESL students. These two groups would usually stay within their own bubble and interactions are not very common.

With a remote environment, I’m afraid that it has become much less likely for students to reach out to each other. As a remote learner myself who attends Zoom classes every school day, I don’t even know what half my class looks like (no one turns on their video)! How am I supposed to bond with them?

Though there are other platforms such as after-school clubs and other bonding events, there is no easy solution. However, I have found some useful tips for balancing screen time that I would love to share!

1. Setting a work schedule (start/end time)- I find it helpful to have a routine that I follow, for example, I won’t open any technological devices before 7:45 p.m., which is five minutes before my first class. I also force myself to turn off all devices at 10 p.m. such that I have time to relax before I go to bed. This forces me to be more productive with the time allotted to me.
2. Spending time with family– Our family members need our love and attention! I find myself starting conversations with other family members during my free time and that takes away the time I spent on the screen.
3. Using an app that limits screen time– Not all screen time is created equal! As a student, I need to do homework and attend classes, but I don’t have to binge YouTube or social media for 3 hours. Using a screen limiting application such as Limit for Chrome, helps me keep track of my time and maintain a healthier technology lifestyle.

That’s it! Even with our increased need to use devices, your well-being always come first.

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Helen Chen, Jr. Editor

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