The online world can be extremely distracting. The new version of Papa’s Freezeria or the addicting Buzzfeed quizzes are almost irresistible during a dull school reading assignment. When homework comes from a paperback textbook, however, the option for a computer game or Youtube video becomes locked up in a laptop.
The teenage attention span is diverted especially easily. Youth become distracted because they have not fully developed their regulatory competence, according to an article written by NPR author, Melissa Andrew. This is the ability humans have to regulate their emotions to function under new circumstances. Since teens have less control over this skill, any unknown interference causes them to shift their focus to the new disturbance. As technology is the epitome of distraction, and teens can only concentrate for limited periods of time, the simple way to ease the struggle is through paperback textbooks, as they cause fewer disturbances.
Beyond the constant distractions lowering educational quality, online textbooks bring physical harm as well. Students of all ages are at risk for numerous detriments from prolonged exposure to screens. The main issue is eye strain, burning constantly tired or itchy eyes. The blue light coming off of computer and phone screens also affects the vision, causing nearsightedness and premature aging of the eyes. When teens already have a high amount of screen time in their day to day lives, there’s no reason to add to this by promoting digital complications.
“The average teenager spends just over four hours watching their phone, television, or any related computer/video games, excluding any usage for schoolwork or homework”
The average teenager spends just over four hours watching their phone, television, or any related computer/video games, excluding any usage for schoolwork or homework, according to a study by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people of all ages manage their technology. The vast amount of screen time teenagers get should not be increased by adding the load of textbooks to read online, when the option of paper is just as suitable.
In addition to complications with vision, reading from screens at night can cause sleep problems, according to the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). The production of melatonin, a hormone needed to prepare for sleep, is decreased when a person reads from a screen before they sleep, thus making them less attentive and alert during the day. A report by StudyMode, an education company dedicated to helping students with their study habits, states procrastination is extremely popular as nearly 87 percent of high school and college students surveyed said they were avid procrastinators. Pushing back reading assignments to late hours is harmful to the body and mind.
While online textbooks may have benefits such as being more interactive with the reader and reducing paper waste, the advantages do not outweigh the costs. For example, books do require a lot of paper, but they are reused throughout the years. If you open an AP World textbook, you will find the names of the last three owners scribbled on the inside cover, not a completely new page. Even though online copies can immerse students more, compared to the paper version, this takes away from the purpose of having a textbook in the first place. The online format becomes more of a tool kit than reading material, as the features, such as highlighters, interactive games and maps, take away from the reader soaking in the content written.
Finally, there is the feeling of accomplishment when the last assigned page is turned and the section is complete. Rather than sliding off the page on a laptop, the paper book can be closed, set aside, and moved on from, giving a sense of finality. Paper textbooks do not stop the fluid comprehension of the reader, as they do not include any visual distractions, such as the ability to switch tabs or change the settings of the reading.
While we are living in an increasingly online community, we need to take care of ourselves physically and mentally through how we choose to complete work. For teachers, the decision can be difficult, as online textbooks can be accessed more quickly, but the short term effects, including procrastination and digital distractions, and the long term effects, such as eyestrain and sleep issues for the students is not worth the easy choice of paperback books. Students, while less in control of the options of digital and online, should aim for paper, as they provide fewer disturbances and are less detrimental to the health of the person.
Give your eyes, body, and mind a rest by making the decision to choose paper textbooks over digital.
Which do you prefer, online or paper textbooks? Let us know in the comments below.