Strategies for ensuring screen time is a win-win for faculty, students

Adam Garry, Senior Director of Education Strategy at Dell and a keynote speaker at the Academic Esports Conference, offers tips to make online experiences positive
By: | April 29, 2020
Photo by Sean Do/Unsplash

Screen time use among students and an increase in online game play and esports are hot topics, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has forced social distancing and remote learning. (You can check out our latest feature on DA here.) Some experts caution the overuse of devices and computers, citing prolonged sedentary behaviors. Others say screen time actually can have some positive outcomes.

Adam Garry, the Senior Director of Education Strategy for Dell Technologies and a keynote speaker at this year’s Academic Esports Conference and Expo, weighs in on the subject of screen time and offers up some techniques and guidance to help ensure worthwhile experiences for esports coaches, faculty and students:

Are there strategies that can be used by coaches, faculty or even parents to keep kids from spending long hours on their computers or devices? 

Rather than trying to limit their screen or game time, reinforce to students that they are athletes, Just like any other athlete, nutrition and wellness will make them perform better. Ask them to test it out – track one day where they don’t get enough sleep, eat junk food, and sit at the computer or console for too many hours.  How were their win ratios?  Then try one day where they had plenty of sleep, ate nutritious foods, and spent some break time in between matches, taking a walk or lifting some weights. Were their results different?  How did they feel?

How important is it that athletes maintain nutrition and wellness?

Maintaining nutrition and wellness is incredibly important.  Studies being conducted now at major universities like the New York Institute of Technology and the esports Lab at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, as well as  within professional gaming teams (like Team Liquid who often have professional team chefs) that show a healthy and balanced diet as well as physical exercise actually enhance performance, including  reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and mental clarity – which are all critical to winning in most esports games.  These researchers are calling for establishing health and wellness protocols in sports medicine for esports athletes. Many collegiate and professional teams not only have chefs, dietitians, or nutritionists engaged, but also involve sports physicians and therapists or wellness coaches to ensure that a player is performing at their peak – physically and mentally. Esports players are training like professional athletes, and Team Liquid focuses on mental and physical health to keep them on top of their game.

How involved should esports coaches be in guiding their athletes?

In the K-12 and collegiate worlds, coaches can be knowledgeable advisors to their teams in providing structure and avoiding injuries. An example schedule from Grapevine-Colleyville ISD demonstrated that when the coaches lay out specific times during practice sessions for physical fitness sessions, the students are open and willingly receiving a more well-rounded approach to a somewhat sedentary sport.

What strategies or techniques are you currently using?

Esports researchers, coaches, and physicians from around the globe are recommending techniques such as the “20-20-20” approach if possible: for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, the gamer should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Another way coaches guide their players is by encouraging the use of blue-blocking sunglasses, at least during practices and scrimmages. Other esports research (as found in Dr. William’s research)  has found that athletes perform better (and improve their overall health) if they take short standing or walking breaks in between matches – even if only for 5-8 minutes. Finally, having a structured daily routine that includes physical fitness in with esports training regimens, is proving to enhance esports player performance around the world.

What is too much screen time?

This can depend on the situation and player. While professional players may spend 8-10 hours per day in front of their screens, the recommended time at the K-12 or collegiate level is much less.  A good guideline is no more than 10 hours per week, if possible.

What are the positives from kids strategizing and playing from home and maintaining those connections?

From NASCAR race drivers to NBA players, many traditional sports are looking to esports methods to stay engaged with each other and their fans. Esports has had the privilege to be one of the few social, collaborative, and competitive activities that can be enjoyed remotely. Some students have had their entire social worlds upended in light of the current situation, but staying engaged in strategizing, playing, and competing in esports from home allows them to maintain those friendships and partnerships. It not only helps them engage and be social with similar-minded and interested people, but also helps them retain a sense of familiarity in a very unfamiliar world.

To register for the Academic Esports Conference or to see the newly released agenda for the sure, go to AcademicEsportsConference.com