Has Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won or it will be the defeat of screen after all this is gone?

Coronavirus is changing everything but especially our relationship with technology and how we are all trying to cope with the lack of human contact. Nellie Bowles’s declaration in The New York Times (NewYork Times) “Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won.” is definitely WRONG —

Yes, our screens have revealed themselves to be invaluable conduits of the human connections we need and crave. We can see how many projects trying to reduce screen-time have emerged. And sure, many of us, facing day after day indoors, are loosening our rules about screen time; plenty of parents, understandably, have thrown in the towel. As Nellie Bowles writes, “Now I have thrown off the shackles of screen-time guilt. My television is on. My computer is open. My phone is unlocked, glittering. I want to be covered in screens. If I had a virtual reality headset nearby, I would strap it on.” She’s right that we shouldn’t judge ourselves for finding comfort and connection in our screens. But the concluding quote in her piece shows why the declaration of victory for screens is so premature. As Epic’s creative director Jon Steinberg puts it: “Weirdly, Gen Z could come out of this with a permanent, lifelong, forged-in-disaster appreciation for physical connections over digital ones.”

I believe it is kind of the other way around. It will be the end of Coronavirus that will define who is the winner.
Once all this is over, we should all ask ourselves the following question: Are we all going to remain on our screens all day long, or are we going to run to hug our loved ones, fill the bars, go for a coffee with friends or fill the parks and trails? I feel Coronavirus will show how humanity, again, will win the battle over technology.

Screen won or human will win?

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Hi @JuanBagby

Yeah, I have also seen this article and it is great to discuss about it. I agree with what you say, and I don’t agree with the conclusion of the author which is saying that coronavirus has let screens win the battle.
But I think she points out an interesting point. Indeed, for years now, we have heard a lot of critics against screens and technology devices. I think that everyone in this forum agree on this point. But what I find interesting is that through her article, we can imagine a world where technology truly connects us. In this peculiar moment, we see all the positive aspects of technology, without feeling guilty of spending hours chatting with our friends or with our family…
I think it shows us that it is possible that tomorrow our screens can connect us rather than isolate us. We see that in a specific context – the quarantine – it can be the case. I find that the positive point of view about phones and screens in the article is very interesting.

However, if you have a look on twitter, you also see that a lot of people complain about the effect of quarantine on their screen overuse. So, I think we might keep a balanced point of view on the topic, because everyody don’t live the quarantine the same way.

But I like to see a glimmer of hope in all of that.


But then Zoom is just taking the privacy problems of Nest and clicking “replay”. We have advanced nothing, really.

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On one hand, Zoom’s problem predates the pandemic, on the other hand, it’s sad that given alternatives, organizations and governments still pick it and only belatedly realize all the privacy issues.

Hey all. Bill here, CEO & co-founder of Readup

@greg and @michel-slm - I’m sorry to pick on you, but I must ask: Did you actually read the article? And/or Juan’s comment? Although the article mentions Zoom, it has nothing to do with privacy. (That’s also something I personally care about, but it’s a different topic altogether.) The article is about the current status of the global debate around screen time and and how the pandemic has changed the way that we think about screen usage.

By chance, we happen to be discussing this article on Readup right now. (And, the cool thing about Readup is that we require people to read things before they can comment on them. So conversations always civil and on topic.)

And, bonus, here’s a link to an ad-free, distraction-free version of the article.

@JuanBagby - thanks SO much for kicking off this conversation with some really insightful thoughts and questions. I’m with you 100%. I SO don’t think screens won. Quite the opposite. Usage of almost all social platforms is down right now, by quite a bit.

I think that almost every human on the planet has recently confronted their own mortality. And I think that that will lead to a collective conclusion that this isn’t how we want to spend our lives. As a sidenote, I think a lot of people are realizing that their jobs are stupid and that they haven’t been making good priorities in general. Long, deep conversations with family and friends will do that.

This debate is FAR from over. Nellie Bowles is usually right on the money, but I think she’s missing the mark here.

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I’ll give that a try, thanks! To your question, I did read Juan’s comment, but my comment was in reply to @greg.

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Bowles article does provide a hopeful perspective about tech’s use for social connection, but it was followed closely by NYT article “Don’t Freak Out about Screentime” by author Andrew Przybylski who is employed by “the Oxford Internet Institute, which is funded by Facebook, Google, and Microsoft” according to https://ifstudies.org/blog/six-facts-about-screens-and-teen-mental-health-that%20a-recent-new-york-times-article-ignores. The two together seem to be forgetting to consider screen engagement with an eye toward the developing human (child) brain. Here is my response to both articles, which I hope you will read, “Don’t Freak Out About Screen Time But Don’t Check Out Either”: https://durablehuman.com/dont-freak-out-about-screen-time-but-dont-check-out-either-how-parents-can-be-present-and-durable-during-coronavirus/


Screens probably won. And it’s not bad when compared to the horrors of the commute, and the senseless madness of living near offices. Anything that can be done in the office can be done on the couch, and much more comfortably, will much less stress, better health, and more freedom from demanding bosses. This has turned the world of knowledge workers upside-down, for the better. Gone are the unfair advantages of passports and the silliness of living in expensive, beyond overcrowded and polluted big cities just to be near some faceless office.

But in some ways screens also lost. When people are forced to be in an office they pass the time by browsing the web. However when working from home, people have the freedom to leave their screens. I have seen this effect in web analytics from my web properties, where overall web traffic is down about 25%, especially from desktops where the drop is even more profound. Given freedom, people will not browse the web.

Yes, I did read the article. And Juan’s comment.

Apologies that I am not taking the Readup bait. Which is kind of a shame, really. My experience with Readup to date was that it was highly derivative but potentially useful. After this presumptuous, accusatory finger-pointing and self-promotion exchange (Hi, I’m Greg. What’s your name and how are you? Pleased to meet you.), I am seeded with serious doubts.

Founders/CEOs set the tone for the entire service, as we all have learned the hard with with Zuckerberg. If you’re trying to be a role model for civil conversations, I’m afraid the evidence currently suggests you will fare no better than an anti-social on the spectrum telling the world how to be social.

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This is not normal times. With lockdown, isolation and social distancing human nature craves for human connection and useful information in this uncertain time. We need everything including technology we have for comfort and to survive this fast moving pathogen. After this global crisis i don’t think the massive evidence against screentime unhealthy effects will just go away. People will still be calling for healthy and moderation in the use of their gadgets screentime and probably get it and maybe the new normal.

Speaking of reading the article, there’s little in there besides the headline. We shouldn’t let the major media shape our thinking with catchy headlines that offer little substance. We all have brains of our own and it’s typically not beneficial for people to take opinions of individuals who happen to be writers at major news outlets as anything more than the opinion on one person who may not have any special qualification.

So regarding Readup, it would be great if the articles people discuss there were articles written by experts in their field of expertise, and filled with more substance. For example the magazine the Atlantic, I have found most of their articles are pseudo-intellectual attention grabbing (for example their recent lies about how the US is headed toward a civil war) with little basis in reality. These are just basically lies the media pumps out for their own profit. It would be great to discuss some of the better articles out there, those extremely rare articles which contain fact-based truth written by experts in their own field.


Well okay. I haven’t read the article and imma bout to spit pure opinion. Don’t come for me (-;
In my experience I don’t think it’s a battle anyway. Technology is here. Screens are here. We need them. It is a privilege to be off of a screen, especially as a student. I am literally getting my college education through a screen. And guess what? Every college student I have talked to is realizing the importance of screen free time and the importance of their online privacy (with the whole Zoom thing). This is an opportunity to educate people because they are especially ready to listen.

The ripple effects of coronavirus will have a huge impact on so many industries and cultural norms, not least of which is the endless screen time debate. Finally, people are realizing that there’s a difference between screen time spent scrolling through strangers’ photos on Instagram and Skyping your family or texting a friend.

Technology has a place in our lives, and when we use it as a tool to accomplish some purpose, then there is no debate. Screen time is not inherently a bad thing when we use it to better our lives, to learn, to connect with each other, to reach our goals.

On the other hand, now that everyone is using SO MUCH screen time, the pain points and disadvantages of our current technology design will become increasingly clear, and pave the way for new advances to improve the way we interact with our tech (for example, launching into voice/audio interfaces).

What unexpected effects do you think our suddenly increased use of screen time will have on developments in tech?