Research Study: The Effects of Screen Time on the Developing Brain | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M4A:U2

Research Study: The Effects of Screen Time on the Developing Brain

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In this unit, students will continue to conduct close readings and then engage in independent research into the ways that the developing adolescent brain may be affected by screen time. Students will keep a researcher's notebook in which they document their research findings, generate supporting research questions, and analyze the credibility of their sources as they determine how different authors use evidence to prove their points. Part 1 of the mid-unit assessment will ask students to analyze and evaluate two arguments: one presented in text and the other presented in a video (RI.7.5, RI.7.8, SL.7.3). Then, in Part 2, students will engage in a simulated research task focused on adolescents and screen time (RI.7.9, W.7.7, W.7.8, L.7.4c, L.7.4d). The assessment will incorporate selected response and short constructed response questions in order to assess students' ability to research.

After the mid-unit assessment, students engage in a structured decision-making process to address the question: "Should the AAP raise its recommended daily screen time from two hours to four hours?" The process guides students to consider the information they gathered while researching, as well as the consequences and impact on stakeholders of each possible position. This leads students to the two-part end of unit assessment. In Part 1, students engage in a Fishbowl discussion about the possible positions they can take (SL.7.1). In Part 2, students formally present their position (SL.7.4, SL.7.5, SL.7.6).

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How is the adolescent brain changing?
  • Should screen time be limited? Why or why not?
  • How can I make an informed decision about an issue and then effectively argue my position? 
  • The effect of screen time on the adolescent brain is a complex question that is still under investigation.
  • Research requires finding high-quality sources and relevant information.
  • Making informed decisions includes weighing evidence and considering personal values.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read informational texts about adolescent brain development. This ELA module is designed to expose students to informational text from various sources and encourage the interaction with texts through multiple modalities (e.g. books, articles, electronic, digital). However, this ELA module does not supplant the regular science curriculum and instructional program at the local level aligned to the NYS Learning Standards in Science for this grade level. The informational text in this module intentionally incorporates Science concepts and themes to support potential cross-standards connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below. 


NYS Learning Standards in Science:

Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum Guide Grades (5-8)

Standard 4: The Living Environment

Key Idea 1: Living Things are both similar to and different from each other and from nonliving things.

Performance Indicators 1.1; Major Understandings 1.1e, 1.1g, 1.1h

Performance Indicators 1.2; Major Understanding 1.2h

 Key Idea 4: The continuity of life is sustained through reproduction and development.

Performance indicator 4.3 Major Understanding 4.3c


Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the Next Generation Science Standards:

Science and Engineering Practices

The eight practices of science and engineering that the Framework identifies as essential for all students to learn and describes in detail are listed below:

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.


Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite a local researcher, psychologist, neurologist, or pediatrician to talk to the students about recent findings in the field of adolescent development, especially in terms of the effects of screen time on adolescents.
  • Invite a game designer, Web site designer, or computer programmer to present more information on his or her field.
  • Contact Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood or a similar organization to answer students' questions about the effects of screen time on children.


  • Visit an fMRI research lab or scan center to see the research first-hand.
  • Visit a public space to monitor the use of digital devices and the way that technology affects the interactions between individuals.


Prepare students to share their findings with community members or peers with a goal of educating the community about adolescent brain development and the possible effects of screen time.

Optional: Extensions

  • Students can make formal speeches based on their position. Consider providing an outside audience as well: parents, community members, or students from other schools.
  • Students could spend a week "screen free" and write a journal on their experience.
  • After they complete the Cascading Consequences exercises in Lesson 13, students could write an "ode" to their digital media device. In the ode they could articulate both the positive and negative consequences of being "plugged in."

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