Thursday, February 21, 2013

Think twice before limiting screentime


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting a child's screentime to no more than one or two hours a day because, they say too much screen time has been linked to the following issues: Obesity. Irregular sleep (see #7). Behavioral problems. Impaired academic performance. Violence. Less time for play.

This begs the questions:
How much does this century-old academy really know about screen time? It seems not much. This out-of-touch Academy confuses passive television watching with interactive screen time which makes it a flawed study to begin with. Next up: Why don’t they address the research that supports that sitting in school all day leads to many of these problems as well? 

If the AAP really wanted to help address these issues, instead of focusing on parents and screens, they’d be making recommendations to schools about things like getting kids up and out of their seats.

Rather than scapegoating screen time, why not focus on empowering young people to make smart decisions about what they should be doing to combat these issues? After all, the reality is that a screen can be a window to enabling students to reach the personal goals they will need for success in the world. Why would we want to limit that?

We never hear that we need to limit book, paper, pen, or calculator time...all tools that reside inside screens. Yet, it is via screens that we can read, write, calculate, code, create, publish for/with real audiences and connect with others who share our passions, talents, and interests. It is via screens that people have access to learning whatever they want whenever they want.

We’ve learned from students like Travis Allen and Nick Perez that limiting screens in school is keeping them prisoners of their teacher’s past. Such restrictions shouldn’t be imposed at home as well. It’s time to stop putting blanket limits on children and start giving them the freedom to learn and live with the tools and support that best help them reach their dreams.  

17 comments:

  1. The issues of obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance, violence, and less time for play are all very important issues. Having said that, I agree with you that limited screentime does not resolve the problem. Instead, educators and parents should address the specific malady. For example, parents and educators should assure that their children have time to play sports, eat nutritiously, and do their homework. Similarly, parents and educators need to discuss the content their children view or play on the computer.

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  2. I disagree. When will we realize that play, nutrition and social interaction are vastly more important than screen time. We put men on the moon without screen time. Those people used their imaginations, played and didn't have a bunch of junk food around when they were kids. All this screen time is taking away from a child's natural process of playing and using their imagination. If we need to use screen time to keep kids engaged, then we are failing...

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    1. Sorry @Anonymous,
      Play, nutrition, and social interaction are all things that can be enhanced via screentime. Again, we need to stop focusing on "screens" and start focusing on how we use them and for what outcome.

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    2. "We put men on the moon without screen time."

      Um, you do realize that computers are *essential* to space flight, right?

      Delete
  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I can't tell you how many times I've sat in my pediatrician's office feeling like the worst parent in the world as the doctor quizzes my kids on how much screen time they get. I get the raised eyebrows, "You don't limit screen time? But it's not good for them to sit in front of a screen all day!"

    My kids go to Sudbury Valley School (www.sudval.org), where they're completely responsible for managing their own time during the school day. My son spent a few years glued to his laptop, first playing online Flash games, then moving on to Minecraft. And then he'd come home and want to watch movie trailers or funny fail videos with me.

    Did he plump up a bit during these years? Sure. Has he slimmed down since? Yes. Does he still spend all day in front of a screen? Sometimes. But these days he also makes and edits videos with friends. Or researches North Korea (current obsession). And sometimes he spends the day playing capture the flag or building a snow fort or just sitting on the swings shooting the #$% with a friend.

    As for @anonymous, I believe NASA had lots of computers, so there was probably some screen time involved in the first moon landing. :)

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  4. Ah, the old standby, rationalizing one's own addiction …

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  5. I agree. It is not the absolute screen time, it is the idle and non-productive screen time that we want to limit.

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  6. Screen time gets a bad rap because parents are using it as a babysitter for their kids, to shut them up and have them leave them alone. Kids are watching shows that are totally inappropriate for their age, or something that will cause questions but then there is no adult there to answer those questions. However I do know that to much screen time (meaning they have done nothing but watch for a few hours at a time) can make my children cranky. I do then redirect them and send them outside or to go play doing something else.

    And books are often limited by some other adult who wants to remove that book from a library. You know the one that has been there for half a century and is now seen as provocative or crass. lol

    I personally don't do a lot of limiting but rather a lot of talking. If I feel something is inappropriate for my children then I explain to them why it may not be the right thing for them to watch just yet but they also have a say in it, and if they start to watch something and it turns out to be to much then we talk about it, we change the show or they leave the room.

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  7. The real issue here is the reduced amount of physical activity in children resulting from too many hours spent sitting in front of a screen on a regular basis. Children need daily physical activity to be healthy and to set lifelong habits of exercising. Children who spend hours in front of a screen after school long into the evening, day after day, are being robbed of physical activity and are exhibiting addictive behavior when the shouting matches begin at bedtime because they don't want to turn the screen off.

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    1. I agree that our society needs more physical activity. I don't agree it is because of screens. We limit how students can use screens at school and at home and often physical activity is not valued in either venue.

      if we really cared about kids getting physical activity, we'd allow them to unglue themselves from school chairs during the best hours of the day for outdoor activity. Of course, here we're not talking about the over-scheduled kids who have early morning swim team and afternoon track...which MANY do!

      The reality is that after a long day at school when someone else dictates what you do and when, our kids deserve to be given the freedom to live and learn in the ways they feel are best. Today it is via a screen where you can read, write, socialize, connect with the world, learn anything you can imagine, build, create, and yes...even do physical activity and improve nutrition.

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  8. Most schools are still working on a centuries old formula and are very out of touch with modern life. I agree that we need more screen time in schools not less however it is what we do with that time that is most important. It really worries me that kids are spending 4, 5 or more hours a day immersed in games such a COD where their main objective is to kill. As a teacher for the last 20 years I can honestly say that kids(and many adults for that matter) have become emotionally disconnected to violence and are much more prone to use violence to get their own way.

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  9. Love how you stated your points or argument, but I'm one who also has not been sold on the limiting of screen time for years. We need to use everything available to us in our work with children/youth at all age points. We need to model and teach good consumerism. Children need to be encouraged to use their imaginations, find ways to be physically active and make connections with others. Screen time limits do not necessary positively impact this. Adult interaction and direction has a greater impact.

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  10. You are welcome to your opinion, and I'm sure it comes from good intentions, but the research of many scientists demonstrates otherwise.

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    Replies
    1. @Parkway Montessori,
      Please share links to the research you are refering to. The research I've seen tends to be like that of the AAP. It is research done by researchers that don't understand the capability of screens and treat it as passively viewing or playing simple video games.

      I'm open to looking at whatever research you are suggesting though. Please share.

      Delete
  11. Most schools are still working on a centuries old formula and are very out of touch with modern life. I agree that we need more screen time in schools not less however it is what we do with that time that is most important. It really worries me that kids are spending 4, 5 or more hours a day immersed in games such a COD where their main objective is to kill. As a teacher for the last 20 years I can honestly say that kids(and many adults for that matter) have become emotionally disconnected to violence and are much more prone to use violence to get their own way.

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  12. Thought-provoking piece, Lisa! I think it has helped to think and talk about our son's online experiences WITH him, and I was pleased to have this cue to further thought. One thing I wonder about is how are we preparing our children to be the captains of their own ships?

    I wrote about our experiences in my Junk Food, Brain Food, Soul Food post.

    Would love to hear others' thoughts on this, as well!

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