whooshing sound

We must use time as a tool, not as a couch - John F. Kennedy

When I was a teen growing up in India, I loved Bollywood. To me, its world of dazzling costumes, dramatic music, and unbelievably repetitive plotlines enthused insurmountable aesthetic appeal. As a result, I spent most of my childhood dancing to Hindi music wearing my grandmother’s sarees, and taking pride in my knowledge of Indian cinema. 

Throughout middle school and early high school, my education never motivated me to do anything beyond my homework and test prep. Every Friday, liberated by the school bell, my mind would default to the new Bollywood releases of the month and YouTube interviews of my favorite celebrities. 

This obsession with the TV screen was my comfort zone, and I am sure, also of many growing adolescents around the globe. 

But here is the issue: A recent study by the National Institute of Health showed that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screen time activities score lower on language and thinking-oriented tests. Moreover, kids who spend more than seven hours a day on screens, show a thinning of the brain’s cortex, which manages critical thinking and reasoning. 

During the Covid-19 lockdown, this screen usage doubled among teens, according to JAMA Pediatrics

The underlying issue here is not with knowing, when to stop unproductive screen engagement but choosing to immerse in it in the first place. 

The pandemic itself brought to light the importance of innovation as a necessity rather than an option. 

There is an epidemic of teens who leave the idea of world-changing solution development to the “grown-ups”. This is besmirched in irony. Innovation requires creativity and imagination. And, we can all unanimously agree, that imagination peaks during our developing years. 

By turning to TV, social media, and other never-ending electronic sources of instant gratification, we are turning a deaf year into the world’s screech for a fresh generation of problem-solvers. This outlook needs to change for our planet’s sustainability. 

At first glance, it seems almost impossible to carry the burden

n of the world on our shoulders when lazy days in the company of the internet seem enticing. 

But I encourage you to slowly make yourself aware of what you are gaining from every additional hour of screen time. 

For me, during the pandemic, this meant creating a daily log tracking the number of hours I spent on Bollywood binge-watching and recording how I felt shortly after. With each additional movie or video, I watched, I found myself feeling irritatingly unfulfilled and aimless. 

By keeping track, consistently reflecting, and slowly curbing my screen time day by day, I replaced my disgruntled TV binge sessions with productive research on COVID-19 personal protective equipment. Ultimately, under the guidance of a PhD scholar and using online building software, I was able to design a better and more cost-effective face shield design that can reduce COVID-19 transmission by 96.7%. This research is now approved and submitted for publishing in the prestigious International Journal of High School Research.

Though I didn’t move mountains, I took a step towards embracing the time I had and transformed it into time well spent. 

If I can do it, so can you.

  • Kaasvi Anshu ( age 17, a high schooler)

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